Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers, return to NBA Finals for second time in three years

The Indiana Pacers made games with the Boston Celtics close in the Eastern Conference finals.

But not close enough to win a game, which means they were a long way from winning the series.

Boston swept Indiana, wrapping up the series with a105-102 victory in Game 4 on Monday. The Celtics reached the Finals for the 23rd time and they are trying to win their 18th championship. Boston played in the 2022 Finals, losing to Golden State and has not won a title since 2008.

Game 4 played out similarly to the first and third games of the series. The Pacers led for long portions of the game and owned a lead late in the fourth quarter.

Indiana built a 98-90 with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics’ ability to score and defend — they had the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense during the regular season — took over late. Missed shots and turnovers doomed the Pacers.

Boston outscored Indiana 15-4 to end the game. Jaylen Brown had a blocked shot and then assisted on Derrick White’s 3-point that gave the Celtics a 105-102 lead. It was Boston's only lead in the final quarter.

Brown had a team-high 29 points and added six rebounds, three steals, two assists and one block, and Jayson Tatum had 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Brown earned the Eastern Conference finals MVP award, averaging 29.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals and shooting 51.7% from the field and 37% on 3-pointers.

Other factors conspired against the Pacers. All-NBA point guard Tyrese Haliburton missed the final two games of the series with a strained left hamstring. Add Bennedict Mathurin’s expected absence — he had season-ending shoulder surgery in March — and the Pacers’ depth became a problem against Boston.

The Celtics, who were without Kristaps Porzingis (calf injury), had just too much talent. Four of five Celtics scored in double figures, and Derrick White produced another strong two-way performance: 16, four rebounds, four assists, five steals and three blocks. Jrue Holiday added 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) attempts to shoot the ball during Game 4.
The Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) attempts to shoot the ball during Game 4.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle promised his team planned to make it difficult for the Celtics to close out the Eastern Conference finals with a sweep.

Carlisle — by extension, the Pacers — made good on that vow. But it wasn’t enough to extend the series.

Coming off a playoff career-high 32 points in Game 3, Andrew Nembhard had 24 points and 10 assists on Monday. Indiana’s Pascal Siakam had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Boston will play the winner of the Minnesota Timberwolves-Dallas Mavericks series in the NBA Finals, starting June 6 in Boston.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA playoffs: Celtics win Eastern Conference finals vs. Pacers