Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Celtics 105, Pacers 102: C's complete sweep to punch ticket to NBA Finals, Jaylen Brown named ECF MVP

The Celtics are headed to their second NBA Finals in three years after completing yet another fourth quarter comeback to seal the deal in Game 4 and beat the Indiana Pacers 105-102 Monday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Jaylen Brown led the way for the Celtics with 29 points, six rebounds, three steals, and the game-winning assist on 11-of-22 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from three point land. Brown actually got off to a rocky start in this one, initially going 1-of-6 from the field with two turnovers. After that inauspicious 1-of-6 start, however, the All-Star really settled into a groove -- going 10-of-16 the rest of the way with just one more turnover.
“I was playing like trash in the first half. The pace was really getting to me," Brown said in his postgame presser. "I just needed to be a little more patient in the second half and let the game come to me a little bit more and I did that. I was just trying to get to the basket and use my physicality, but if the game tells you to shoot a jump shot, you shoot a jump shot. Sometimes you need to be flexible, you need to be versatile and the game will just tell you what you need to do."
That versatility and stellar play throughout the C's four-game sweep earned Brown the honor of the Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

Jayson Tatum finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, while Jrue Holiday (the hero of Game 3) added 17 points and nine rebounds to help Boston improve to a perfect 6-0 on the road and 12-2 overall so far in the postseason.

Andrew Nembhard led all Pacers in scoring with 24 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and 3-of-06 from long range. Nembhard displayed a legitimate capability to be lead guard for a playoff team in the absence of Indiana's All-NBA point guard Tyrese Haliburton (missed second-straight game with a hamstring injury). 

Nembhard used his strength and effective mid-range game to fill it up for the Pacers, while Pascal Siakam was held firmly in check by Boston's defense in Game 4, posting 19 points and 10 rebounds on an inefficient 8-of-18 from the field. Former Celtic Aaron Nesmith chipped in 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting in Indy's season-finale.

The Pacers led for most of the second half, just like they did in Saturday night's loss in Game 3 -- including an eight point lead at the 5:56 minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Celtics once again whittled Indiana's lead down to two before Siakam sank a floater with 3:33 minutes to go. The deficit was four, but that would be the last bucket the Pacers scored. 

The Celtics totally shut the water off on Indiana's offense down the stretch, and clinched the game with a 15-4 run that was capped off with a Brown pass to Derrick White (16 points) in the right-hand corner for a go-ahead 3-pointer with 45 seconds left.

Boston came into the playoffs with numerous questions surrounding their crunch time offense and so far they have answered them, even with the absence of Kristaps Porzingis.
"This team is very similar to you guys [the media], they make a lot of noise," C's head coach Joe Mazzulla said when asked about Boston's defense down the stretch. "You have to decipher what's true, what shots you're willing to live with, and which ones you are going to take away. We just upped our ball pressure and our individual defense and we got stops to hold them to a 19 point quarter."
The Celtics have earned themselves a significant rest period, with the NBA Finals not starting until June 6th, giving Porzingis plenty more time to get rehab and be ready for Game 1. Boston will take on the winner of the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, with the Mavs currently leading that series 3-0.

Game Notes:

Boston was 44.9% from the field, including 14-of-44 (31.8%) from behind the arc, while the Pacers hit 46% from the floor and 10-of-29 (34.5%) from long distance. The C's were out-rebounded 47-44, but won the points in the paint battle 48-46. Indiana dished out 24 assists on 40 baskets to the Celtics 22 dimes on 40 made shots.

Eli Weisberger

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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