Celtics-Nets takeaways: Tatum makes statement in series-clinching win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics broke out the brooms in Brooklyn as they completed a first-round series sweep of the Nets on Monday night.
With a dramatic 116-112 win in Game 4, the C's showed one last time why they didn't fear a Round 1 matchup with Brooklyn. They outscored the Nets in the first three quarters and staved off their last-ditch effort to stay alive in the fourth.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving finished the series with 39 and 20 points, respectively. Seth Curry notched 23 while shooting 5-of-9 from 3, but it still wasn't enough to extend Brooklyn's season.
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Here are our takeaways from the C's series-clinching victory. Next, they'll face the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks-Chicago Bulls series, which Milwaukee leads 3-1 heading into Wednesday's Game 5.
Jayson Tatum finishes series with a statement
Jayson Tatum entered the series as a star, but he reached a new level by outplaying Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving throughout the first-round matchup.
The trend continued in Game 4 with Tatum scoring a team-high 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting (4-6 3-PT). He also notched five assists before fouling out on a questionable call with 2:48 to go in the fourth quarter.
Tatum finished the series with 29.5 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He shot a sparkling 41.9% from 3-point range.
Perhaps Paul Pierce was onto something with his Tatum-Durant take after all.
Durant had his best game of the series with 39 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Still, the 12-time All-Star just wasn't efficient enough to prevent Brooklyn from getting swept. He shot just 13-for-31 from the field and turned the ball over four times, bringing his turnover total in the series to 21.
Irving, meanwhile, looked ready for the offseason for most of the night. He ended up with 20 points (6-13 FG) but didn't make much of an impact until the game was close late in the fourth quarter. After dropping 39 points on 12-of-20 shooting in Game 1, Irving had 46 on 16-of-43 shooting in Games 2 through 4.
Tatum was the best player on the floor from start to finish, and it wasn't all that close. He's only 24.
Marcus Smart does it all
Without Marcus Smart, the C's would've had to put the brooms back in the closet. The veteran point guard facilitated the Celtics' win with 20 points and a game-high 11 assists, plus he only turned the ball over once.
Smart stepped up as the team's offensive spark plug when Tatum wasn't on the floor. Overall, it was a rock-solid series for the Defensive Player of the Year as he scored double-digit points and at least five assists in all four games. He also did a tremendous job locking down Irving.
Robert Williams shaking off the rust
Having Robert Williams back in the mix is huge for the C's as they advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It's especially significant if they end up meeting the Giannis-led Bucks.
Monday's Game 4 marked Williams' second game back from meniscus surgery and it's clear the big man is still getting comfortable on the court. He scored three points (1-4 FG) while bringing down five boards in 14 minutes off the bench. His lone bucket finished off an alley-oop, so that's an encouraging sight for Celtics fans heading into Round 2.
It should strike fear in the rest of the East that the C's swept the Nets without a fully healthy Time Lord. If he can get anywhere near 100%, Kendrick Perkins may have been spot-on: the Celtics could cruise to the NBA Finals.
Nic Claxton makes history
We witnessed history in Monday night's Game 4 as Nic Claxton's free-throw struggles reached a new low.
Claxton missed his first 10 free-throw attempts to break Shaquille O'Neal's previous record of consecutive misses at the charity stripe. He finishes the series a putrid 4-for-22 from the line.
To put that into perspective, the Celtics didn't miss more than six free throws in an entire game all series.
When Claxton finally got his one and only free throw make, the crowd at Barclays Center went wild.
Claxton actually was solid otherwise, tallying 13 points while shooting 6-of-8 from the field. Unfortunately for the Nets, his 1-for-11 FT night ended up being the difference-maker in their four-point defeat.