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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Magic destroy Hawks again to complete sweep

ATLANTA (AP) Ever since they lost in the NBA Finals, the Orlando Magic have been determined to get back — and, this time, win it all.

Two series down, two to go.

Vince Carter scored 22 points to lead another dominating performance by Orlando, which finished off its second straight playoff sweep with a 98-84 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

The Magic won the four games by an average of 25.3 points — a total blowout that no one could have expected in a matchup between the teams that finished second and third in the Eastern Conference. It was the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA playoff history, according to STATS LLC.

"Guys are just focused. It's unbelievable to see," Carter said. "This is my opportunity for a championship."

The Magic, who lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in last year's NBA Finals, are playing better than anyone at the most important time of the season. They have won 14 in a row, the last eight in the playoffs, and 28 of 31.

"We would have to be playing at our absolute, absolute best — like, mistake-free — to beat that team," said Jamal Crawford, who led Atlanta with 18 points. "That team is a great team. They have as good a chance as any to win a championship."

The Magic are off to the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row. They will face either Boston or a rematch with Cleveland, the team they upset for last year's conference title before losing to the Lakers.

Orlando barely broke a sweat against the Hawks, and Game 4 was more of the same. Atlanta held Dwight Howard to 13 points and eight rebounds, but the Magic had plenty of other options.

"We're playing for something bigger than ourselves, and we've got to do it together," Howard said.

Jameer Nelson was unstoppable, baffling the Hawks with his now-you-see-him, now-you-don't quickness. He finished with 16 points and nine assists.

Rashard Lewis scored 17 points, knocking down four 3-pointers. Teammate Mickael Pietrus scored 12 points — all of them from beyond the arc.

As a team, Orlando knocked down 16 of 37 from 3-point range, taking more long-range shots than two-pointers (28). Overall, the Magic shot 55 percent from the field and never trailed during either game in Atlanta.

"I think our guys pretty well bring it every night," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "If we're better than you, we're going to win most of the time."

Hawks star Joe Johnson finished off a miserable series by scoring only 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting. He was booed by the home crowd at the start of the game and got the same treatment when he went to the bench with 3:51 to play.

The fans were still miffed that he said he didn't care if they "showed up or not" after they heckled the team in a 30-point loss on Saturday.

Lakers finish Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers played more like they were trying to avoid a sweep rather than complete one.

The Lakers stormed out to a 22-point lead in the first half, then withstood a brief surge by Utah in the third quarter before regaining control in the fourth and winning 111-96 on Monday night, sweeping the second-round series and advancing to the Western Conference finals for the third straight year.

"With close-out games, you have a tendency to lose focus," said Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 for the Lakers. "We kept our concentration and paid attention to detail."

Pau Gasol added 33 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who are off until hosting the Phoenix Suns next Monday in Game 1 of the West finals.

Carlos Boozer had 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Kyrylo Fesenko added 12 rebounds for Utah, which was swept for the first time in 21 years.

76ers meet Majerle

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Phoenix Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle and Portland Trail Blazers assistant Monty Williams have met with the Philadelphia 76ers to discuss the team's vacant coaching job.

Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski interviewed each former NBA player on Monday in Phoenix. Stefanski says both assistants are valuable assets on their respective benches.

The Sixers interviewed former Detroit Pistons star Bill Laimbeer and former Toronto coach Sam Mitchell on Sunday.

The 76ers also have spoken with Avery Johnson and Doug Collins. They fired Eddie Jordan last month after the team went 27-55 in his lone season.

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