ATLANTA — Every time Kevin Love got open beyond the 3-point arc, the crowd at Philips Arena would gasp. Eight times the Atlanta Hawks’ fans gasp was followed by a groan.
Love scored 27 points, including tying his career-high with eight 3-pointers, and the Cleveland Cavaliers completed a four-game sweep of the Hawks with a 100-99 win Sunday at Philips Arena.
The Cavaliers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight season and will await the winner of the Toronto-Miami series.
Kyrie Irving scored 21 points and had eight assists, and LeBron James added 21 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and made a big defensive stand on the Hawks’ final possession.
With Cleveland leading 100-99 with 10 seconds to play, James tied up Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder on a drive inside the paint and won the ensuing jump ball to help the Cavs hang on.
Cleveland was sizzling hot from the 3-point line throughout the series. The Cavs hit 16 3s on Sunday — 10 in the first half — and made 62 in the final three games of the series.
Schroder paced a balanced Atlanta offense that had five players finish in double figures. He hit back-to-back layups late in the fourth quarter, the second putting the Hawks ahead 97-96 with 1:31 to play. But he couldn’t past James on his last shot.
James scored on a goaltending call and a jumper and the final two minutes, and Tristan Thompson also had a key block on Schroder late for the Cavs.
Cleveland can look forward to some rest. In the other Eastern Conference semifinal, Toronto leads Miami 2-1 in what has been a tight, physical series that has seen both teams suffer injuries to key players.
Schroder finished with 21 points, and Paul Millsap added 19 for Atlanta.
Atlanta enjoyed its biggest lead of the series, up 12 in the second quarter, but it never felt like the Hawks were in control or would be able to withstand an inevitable challenge from the Cavaliers.
That challenge came in the third quarter, and when Love completed a four-point play with a free throw that followed his eighth 3-pointer, Cleveland led 79-75 and looked poised to put away the Hawks in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks head into the offseason, fresh off their ninth consecutive playoff appearance, the longest active streak in the Eastern Conference, but knowing they’re not any closer to beating Cleveland.
It’s the second straight season Atlanta has been swept out of the playoffs by James and the Cavaliers.
The question is do they blow up the core of the team that has led them to playoff series wins the past two seasons? Both center Al Horford and swingman Kent Bazemore are in contract years.
NOTES: Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer kept F Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup for the second straight game, with F/G Kyle Korver coming off the bench. … Cleveland reserve F Channing Frye’s 27-point performance in Game 3 was a playoff career high. … Sunday’s win allowed the Cavalier to match the NBA record of 12 consecutive playoff wins over a single opponent. … No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series.