How Celtics’ clutch defense won Game 4 to sweep Pacers, advance to NBA Finals: 4 takeaways

By Jay King, Jared Weiss, Eric Nehm, James Boyd and Hunter Patterson

INDIANAPOLIS — The Boston Celtics return to the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons, sweeping the Indiana Pacers and winning Game 4 105-102 on Monday.

Jaylen Brown scored a game-high 29 points along with six rebounds, three steals and four 3-pointers to lead the Celtics. Jayson Tatum nearly had a triple-double, adding 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Boston’s starting five accounted for 95 of its 105 points.

Andrew Nembhard continued his offensive momentum to lead the Pacers, finishing with a team-high 24 points and 10 assists while adding six rebounds on 10-of-16 shooting.

The second-year guard has averaged 28 points, 9.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds over the past two games, with All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton sidelined with a hamstring strain -left hamstrings.

The first game of the NBA Finals will be played in Boston on June 6 against the Dallas Mavericks or the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Celtics execute throughout streak

The long-standing question about the Celtics is: How will they execute at the end of close games? Their history of late-game panic, for lack of a better word, concerns them. They dominated throughout the Eastern Conference Finals.

Once again, the Celtics found themselves in danger in the fourth quarter as they trailed by nine points. TJ McConnell had a great chance to put the Pacers up 11 points three minutes into the quarter, but his missed layup led to a 3-pointer by Brown on the other end of the court.

Even though Indiana didn’t go away, Boston controlled the rest of the fourth quarter, piling up steals and blocks, and doing just enough offensively. After missing a few chances after tying, Brown found Derrick White in the corner for a go-ahead 3-pointer.

Jrue Holiday sealed the game with an offensive rebound on Boston’s next possession.

The Celtics pulled away two games early in this series after having serious problems in the fourth quarter. In the first game, Brown forced overtime with a corner 3-pointer in the final seconds. In Game 3, Boston needed a huge comeback after trailing by 18 points in the second half.

Despite the sweep, the series was still competitive. The Celtics, however, found their way in close games. They could use the same balance in the Finals, but will likely have a tougher challenge against Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving and the Mavericks. — Jay King, Celtics writer

Boston achieves tough sweep

The Celtics head to the Finals after another frantic finish to pull off one of the toughest sweeps this team has ever seen. The Pacers improved their game in every way after losing Haliburton, forcing Boston to perfect their late-game execution and defensive efforts.

Brown’s scoring got the Celtics through offensive slumps and he did it again in the second half. But it was his big save on Nembhard in the final minute and then his run through traffic to find White for the game-winning goal that defined Brown’s performance in this series.

Barring an unprecedented comeback from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Celtics will face the Dallas Mavericks, who play a different style of basketball than Indiana but who will be even more formidable late in the game. It was the only thing that doomed Indiana, as Boston’s defense and playmaking were the separators in this series.

The Celtics proved that they knew what they wanted to get into when the game was on the line and that they could improve their defensive execution in those moments. They are now four wins away from their 18th NBA championship. — Jared Weiss, Celtics writer

Indiana fights until the last seconds

No one would have blamed the Pacers for throwing in the towel in Game 4. Trailing 3-0 in the series without Haliburton, the game could have easily turned into a blowout and the Celtics could have advanced to the NBA Finals.

Instead, the Pacers competed and fought until the very final seconds of Monday’s 105-102 Game 4 loss.

Nembhard was spectacular again, but the Pacers saw their season end at home. Pascal Siakam added 19 points and 10 rebounds to try to keep the season alive and McConnell was once again spectacular coming off the bench.

Throughout the playoffs, the Pacers have been defined by their willingness to fight for every second of every game and it was no different in the Eastern Conference Finals. — Eric Nehm, NBA Senior Writer

Pacers shoot well but can’t resist dagger 3

The Pacers took a page from the Celtics’ book with their 3-point shooting through three quarters. Indiana entered Game 4 trailing Boston 46-29 by three points in the Eastern Conference finals, but tied the Celtics with 10 3-pointers in the first 36 minutes to take a 3-point lead heading into the final quarter time.

Six different Pacers made a 3 in three quarters, including Myles Turner who made two 3-pointers early in the second half to give Indiana a five-point lead.

But the fourth quarter belonged to the Celtics, punctuated by White’s corner 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, which proved to be the game-winner.

Boston’s timely 3-point shooting shouldn’t come as a surprise for a team ranked No. 1 in the NBA with 16.5 3-pointers per game during the regular season. The Celtics also shot 38.8 percent from distance during the regular season, ranking second in the league.

After shooting just 2 of 12 on 3-pointers in the third quarter, Brown got the Celtics back on track with two 3s in the fourth quarter, and Tatum added another to keep the Pacers from running away with the game before Boston does what. it’s done throughout the series: winning in the clutch.

White’s dagger 3 ripped the hearts out of the Pacers after they fought desperately to extend their season, which ended in the conference finals after their first appearance in a decade. —James Boyd, editor

This story will be updated.

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(Photo: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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