LeBron, Cavs sweep Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. He was just getting warmed up - 2 hours before tipoff - and his regular routine provided another demonstration of greatness.

James had 36 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 99-78 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, sweeping the Eastern Conference first-round series.

The 24-year-old superstar said his work ethic has been "everything" in a breathtaking career that has surpassed unprecedented hype.

"You're only born with a certain amount of gifts," he said. "You have to take advantage of them, and put in the work. My work ethic has helped me be the player I am today."

Cavs coach Mike Brown said James is a "workaholic," and relayed an anecdote about his son being in awe of James lifting weights and going through individual drills during last offseason.

"I said, `LeBron doesn't just show up at the game with a Superman outfit on,"' Brown recalled saying to his son.

James and the top-seeded Cavs were so efficient against past-its-prime Detroit - earning the only sweep of this postseason - they might be off for more than a week, waiting for Atlanta or Miami to advance.

"That's what happens when you take care of business," James said.

Detroit, meanwhile, will have its longest offseason since 2001 and about $20 million in salary-cap space to rebuild a once-proud team that fell apart after trading Chauncey Billups in November.

"It's sort of the changing of the guard," Pistons coach Michael Curry said. "I knew once we traded Chauncey, we were going to be a different team."

Even with Billups, the Pistons would've probably had a tough time getting past James and his dramatically improved surrounding cast.

James made his first four shots - including a windmill dunk - and helped put the Pistons away for good with a 16-6 run midway through the third quarter.

Mo Williams scored a career playoff-high 24 and Delonte West had 12 points for the Cavs.

"Mo was fantastic, Delonte was fantastic," Brown said. "And obviously, LeBron was LeBron. Again, he almost had a triple-double."

James had 25 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Game 3.

In the final game of what was a miserable season, Detroit's Antonio McDyess had 26 points to tie a career playoff high, Will Bynum scored a career playoff-high 22 and Rodney Stuckey had 14.

"It's been a unique season, a difficult season," Curry said. "It's the first time this group has gone through any rough stretches."

Detroit was in the conference finals the past six years, the longest such streak in the NBA since the Los Angeles Lakers' run two decades ago. The Pistons, the only Eastern Conference team in the playoffs for an eighth straight year, had advanced in each of the previous seven postseasons.

James has led the Cavs into the playoffs the past four years, winning at least one series each time.

Cleveland lost to the Pistons in the second round of the 2006 playoffs, got past them the next year in the conference finals en route to its first NBA finals appearance and was eliminated by the eventual champion Boston Celtics in the second round last year.

The Cavs will face the winner of the Atlanta-Miami series, which the Heat lead 2-1 heading into Monday night's game at home. The best-of-seven series could end as late as Sunday, May 3.

"For us to get a week off before our next game is big," James said.

When James joined his teammates for warmups before Game 4, Cleveland fans seemed to outnumber Detroit supporters and he waved his arms in the air to encourage them to be even louder.

"It's great to be in Cleveland," Cavs radio broadcaster Joe Tait joked.

James gave them plenty to cheer about early, especially on a spectacular dunk, and ignited more "M-V-P!" chants by a slam that put the Cavs ahead 86-69.

"He deserved it," Bynum said. "He dominated from Game 1 through Game 4."

In the final minutes of the game, "Let's Go Cavs!" chants could easily be heard as frustrated fans of the Pistons exited.

"It was just embarrassing," McDyess said.

Rasheed Wallace was scoreless, missing all seven of his shots, in what was probably his last game with the Pistons unless they make a stunning move and re-sign him as a free agent.

"I think he just struggled this series," Curry said.

Wallace's and Allen Iverson's contracts will come off the Pistons' books this summer, making them potentially a major player in the offseason.

Iverson was acquired from the Denver Nuggets for Billups early in the season and the short-term impact was awful for the Pistons, transforming them from a possible contender to a definitive disaster.



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