Derrick White 3, Celtics experience earns them 105-102 win over Pacers, series sweep

derrick white 3, celtics experience earns them 105-102 win over pacers, series sweep

May 27, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; The Boston Celtics celebrate their win against the Indiana Pacers game four of the eastern conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana showed grit — even after their All-NBA point guard Tyrese Haliburton went out, missing the final two games. Three of the four games in the Eastern Conference Finals were close at the end.

Boston had been there before. Their core guys were together in the NBA Finals two years ago, and the new addition, Jrue Holiday, has a ring. Indiana’s young team had not been on this stage before, outside of Pascal Siakam (who has a ring from Toronto).

That collective wisdom showed with key players making defensive plays or knocking down big shots — like Jaylen Brown with the block and Derrick White in Game 4 with what proved to be the game-winner.

Or with Holiday getting the offensive rebound that sealed the win.

Boston saved their best for last and leave Indiana with a 105-102 Game 4 win and a sweep of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics advance to the NBA Finals against either the Timberwolves or Mavericks — probably Dallas as it is up 3-0 — with Game 1 coming June 6 in Boston. Yes, a week from Thursday.

Jaylen Brown, who finished Game 4 with a team-high 29 points and made key plays down the stretch of a few games, was rewarded as the Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

Indiana showed a fight in the playoffs that not everyone thought they had, and they earned the Celtics’ respect (and that of any doubters).

“The level of fight was just tremendous all the way through this,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Circumstance never phased them one way or the other. They were in this to win every possession they could, every game that they could.”

That fight was evident from the opening tip. The Pacers were not getting stops but took care of the ball better than in previous games, keeping things close through the first quarter. It was 29-27 Boston after one. Holiday had eight points on 3-of-3 shooting in the first.

Boston was good — 16 points from Jayson Tatum leading a balanced attack, the team shooting 8-of-20 from 3 as a team — but the Pacers hung close thanks to 16 points in the first half from Andrew Nembhard. He has stepped up for Indiana this postseason — he had 32 points in Game 3 — and deserves a bigger role going into next season.

Nembhard finished the game with a team-high 24 points. This summer he will be in Paris with Team Canada, a team that is a legitimate threat to the USA’s Gold Medal dreams.

It was a one-point game, 58-57 Celtics at the half. That was partly due to Obi Toppin and T.J. McConnell giving Indiana a spark off the bench — they combined for 27 points and 12 rebounds in this game.

It stayed close until the end, but that’s when the Celtics experience kicked in. Jayson Tatum finished with 26 points, Holiday had 17 and Derrick White had 16.

Boston is getting criticism because it faced three straight teams shaken by injuries — the Miami Heat without Jimmy Butler, the Cleveland Cavaliers with Donovan Mitchell exiting halfway through the series, and finally the Pacers without Haliburton the last two — but it has beat the teams in front of it.

Whoever Boston faces in the NBA Finals will be healthier and battle-tested, but these Celtics have comfortably beaten everyone in front of them so far and are now four wins away from banner No. 18.

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