LeBron scores 47, leads Cavaliers to 97-82 win

The Associated PressMay 10, 2009 

— LeBron James had that unstoppable feeling.

Everyone get out of the way. Time for him to do something really special.

As if being the league's MVP wasn't enough, James scored 47 points in his best performance yet of these playoffs, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink of their second straight postseason sweep with a 97-82 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

"It's unexplainable, honestly," James said after carrying Cleveland to a 3-0 lead in the series. "There's only a few guys in this league that can get into a zone like that, and I'm blessed to have the ability to be one of those guys.

"You just feel like you can make pretty much every shot you take."

He'll get no argument from the Hawks, who put up their best fight of the series and still find themselves just one loss away from calling it a season. The Cavaliers said James was the first player ever to score that many points, grab that many rebounds (12) and dole out that many assists (eight) in a playoff game.

"LeBron was just out of his mind tonight," Atlanta's Josh Smith said.

Cleveland kept up its dominating run through the playoffs, setting an NBA record with its seventh straight double-figure win to eclipse the mark set by the 2004 Indiana Pacers. The only solace for the Hawks: They stopped the Cavaliers' streak of 20-point playoff wins at three, including a pair of routs in Cleveland.

The Hawks were only down 47-46 at the halftime, and they surged back into their first second-half lead of the series with a 13-0 run in the third quarter. But Zaza Pachulia got ejected for arguing a foul call — acting as though he might attack the officials — and Atlanta faded away down the stretch.

James made sure of that.

He normally rests the first few minutes of the second and fourth quarters, but this time he asked to stay in the game heading to the final period. Coach Mike Brown wasn't about to sit his star down.

"He took the ball, put it in his hands and said he was going to score for us, so I told him, 'OK,'" Brown said. "I just told everybody else, 'Let's defend.'"

James eclipsed his previous high in these playoffs — 38 points vs. the Pistons in an opening-round sweep — and finished just one off his best playoff performance ever, a 48-point night against Detroit while leading Cleveland to its first trip to the NBA finals in 2007.

They appear to be on the way again, especially with the MVP leading the way.

James hit a running 13-footer to send the Cavaliers to the final period with a 72-65 lead. If the Hawks had any thoughts of a comeback, he quickly erased them.

James hit a jumper near the courtside seat and slapped his hands in delight with just over 8 minutes remaining. On Cleveland's next possession, he stood out near the half-court line, barking instructions at his teammates. Delonte West and Zydrunas Ilgauskas both popped out to set picks, and James weaved his way through the Atlanta defense before pulling up to launch a floater just off the foul lane.

Nothing but net.

"When you've got the hot hand, you continue to go to it," he said. "Tonight, I felt like I had the hot hand. I got anywhere and everywhere I wanted to get on the floor."

As if he needed any extra motivation, James kept jawing with an overzealous Atlanta fan near the court — and kept making shots.

"A gentleman over there decided to talk back with me," James said. "It's happened in the past. It usually doesn't work out good for the other team."

While James was a virtual one-man show, he kept his teammates involved with all those assists. He also led Cleveland to a dominant performance on the boards, 46-23.

Finally, with 44 seconds remaining, James' work was done. He went off to a big ovation from the smattering of Cleveland fans who hung around to chant, "MVP! MVP! MVP!"

James has been incredibly efficient in this series, playing 108 minutes and scoring 108 points. He was at his best in this one.

"He had the attitude he was not going to lose," teammate Joe Smith said. "He put us on his back. Once he gets going, nobody in the league is going to stop him."

Atlanta was hardly in position to challenge the Cavaliers, who had the league's best record during the regular season (66-16). When factoring in that three starters — Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams — were hurting, there seemed little chance of Atlanta challenging the Cavaliers.

They did for nearly three quarters, though Pachulia's ejection seemed to take any life out of the raucous crowd — and the home team. The Hawks were outscored 31-17 after the emotional Georgian was tossed.

"I thought it was an offensive foul," Pachulia said. "Maybe I overreacted."

It probably wouldn't have mattered anyway.

James was 15 of 25 from the field, went 5 of 10 outside the 3-point arc (even banking in one), and wound up making more free throws — 12 of 16 — than the entire Hawks' team attempted (7 of 11).

"He's not the MVP for nothing," Pachulia said. "He's the best player in the league. He knows when to push the gas. That's what he did."

Johnson, who didn't decide until game time that he was healthy enough to play, led the Hawks with 21 points. Smith added 18 and Flip Murray 17.

Ilgauskas scored 14, West had 12 and Mo Williams 11 for the Cavaliers.

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