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 the Magic, who finished their second straight playoff sweep with a 98-84 win over the host Atlanta Hawks last night.
Orlando 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.
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 and Mickael Pietrus scored 12 points — all of them from beyond the arc.
Orlando was 16 of 37 from 3-point range, taking more long-range shots than 2-pointers (28). The Magic 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.’’
Lakers 111, Jazz 96 — Kobe Bryant scored 32 points, Pau Gasol added 33 points and 14 rebounds, and Los Angeles completed a four-game sweep of host Utah, advancing to the Western Conference finals for the third straight year.
The Lakers quickly ended the Jazz’s hopes of extending the series by pulling ahead by 22 in the second quarter. Utah got within 5 in the third, but couldn’t sustain the comeback against the defending NBA champions, who made very few mistakes and didn’t give the Jazz many chances to rally.
Los Angeles had just six turnovers and made 29 of 36 foul shots while knocking Utah out of the playoffs for the third straight year. The Lakers host the Suns Monday in Game 1 of the West finals.
Deron Williams had 21 points for Utah, which was swept for the first time in 21 years.