NEW YORK – Jayson Tatum scored 29 points, Jaylen Brown had 22 and the Boston Celtics completed a four-game sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, becoming the first team to reach the second round of the playoffs with a 116-112 victory Monday night.
Marcus Smart added 20 points and 11 assists for the No. 2 seeded Celtics, who made it easy to work with what was thought to be a tough series. Boston will wait for the winner of the series between Milwaukee and Chicago. Defending champion Bucks holds a 3-1 lead in that series.
Kevin Durant had 39 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and escaped after the Celtics had defended him well in the first three games. But he could not provide the Nets with the victory they needed to extend what instead falls like a massive failure in a season.
The Nets, who are expected to become an NBA Finals challenger, needed a strong finish just to grab the No. 7 seed.
Seth Curry scored 23 points for the Nets. Kyrie Irving, whose lack of availability for home games much of the season because he has not been vaccinated against coronavirus, helped the Nets perform so far below expectations, having 20 points.
The Celtics were under .500 in the middle of their season, but went 31-10 from there, with Tatum popping up as the scoring star on one of the NBA’s best defensive teams.
That defense limited Durant to just 19-for-52 shooting with 17 turnovers through the first three games and made it difficult for him, though he finally got more shots to drop on Monday. He was only 13 of 31 from the field, 3 for 11 behind the arc.
He lost in the first round for the first time since 2010 with Oklahoma City, the first playoff series of his career. He had won nine series in a row in the first round.
Tatum had 12 points in the third quarter and the Celtics opened a 90-75 lead in the final seconds of the period. But he went to the bench with a fifth foul with 8:17 left, and the Nets made a push that got them within three points about three minutes later.
Tatum struck out with the Celtics leading by six with 2:48 left. Irving made a 3-pointer and Durant scored to reduce it to 109-108 with 1:28 left. But after a basket by Brown, Durant could only make a free throw and the Celtics hurried down the floor, with Al Horford trailing Smart’s miss and making it 113-109 with 13 seconds left.
The Nets were hoping they could get Ben Simmons to make his debut for them in Game 4, but he was ruled out on Sunday with multiple back pains that have plagued him since not long after arriving in a mid-season deal with Philadelphia.
Tatum did not have a basket in the first quarter, but quickly got started in the second with two 3-pointers and another jumper. Durant kept the Nets close and they were only down 45-44 after finding Curry in the corner for a 3-pointer with 3:29 left. But Grant Williams made three 3-pointers from then until the end of the half, the last of which gave Boston a 58-50 lead.