JAYSON Tatum scored 29 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter as the Boston Celtics never trailed and completed a four-game sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in their Eastern Conference first-round series by holding on for a 116-112 victory Monday night in New York.
The second-seeded Celtics, who lost to the Nets in five games in this round last season, await the winner of the Milwaukee-Chicago series. The Bucks lead the Bulls three games to one.
In front of a number of Boston fans who made the trip to New York, the Celtics led by as many as 15 before sweating out the final minutes after Tatum was called for a pair of offensive fouls.
Tatum, who hit the buzzer-beating layup in the series opener and scored 39 points in Game 3, made 9 of 16 shots, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer early in the second quarter that gave Boston the lead for good.
Jaylen Brown added 22 points for the Celtics, who shot 47.2% and won each game in the series by single digits. Marcus Smart added 20 points and 11 assists, Grant Williams hit four 3-pointers and contributed 14 points and Al Horford chipped in 13.
Kevin Durant scored 39 for his best game of the series but missed two 3-pointers in the final minute as Brooklyn ended a season it had entered as an NBA title favorite. Seth Curry added 23 points, Kyrie Irving finished with 20 and the Nets shot 50.6%.
Despite never trailing, the Celtics sweated out some dicey moments in the fourth after Tatum picked up his fifth foul when he charged into Blake Griffin with 8:17 left. After Tatum went to the bench, the Nets cut the deficit to 102-99 when Goran Dragic hit a 3-pointer with 5:24 left.
The Celtics held a 109-103 lead when Tatum fouled out with 2:49 remaining and the Nets drew within 109-108 on Durant’s 14-footer with 1:28 left.
On the next possession, Brown hit a layup to make it 111-108 with 62 seconds left and Durant missed a tying 3-pointer seven seconds later.
After Brown missed a jumper with 29.6 seconds to go, Durant split two free throws with 22.2 seconds to make it 111-109. Smart missed a layup, but Horford swooped in for the putback with 13.7 seconds left and a 113-109 lead.
Following a timeout, Durant’s 3-pointer was long with 10.3 seconds remaining and Smart iced the game by hitting three free throws over the final 7.1 seconds left. — Reuters