Jason Tatum scored 29 to lead the Boston Celtics to sweep the Brooklyn Nets

NEW YORK – Jason Tatum scored 29 points, Jaylen Brown 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 win on Monday night.

Marcus Smart added 20 points and 11 assists for the second-seeded Celtics, who eased work on what he thought was a tough streak. Boston will wait for the winner of the series between Milwaukee and Chicago. The defending champions lead the bucks 3-1 in that series.

The Celtics had no fear of the Nets, winning on the final day of the regular season rather than losing to slip out of the standings and avoid them.

Turns out there was no cause for concern.

“It’s funny to us, because we don’t avoid anybody,” Smart said. “We knew what we were going to come here and do.”

Kevin Durant scored 39 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, breaking the ball after the Celtics defended him well in the first three games. But he couldn’t get the win the Nets needed to extend what happened instead as a massive failure for one season.

Expected to be a contender in the NBA Finals, the Nets needed a strong finish just to snatch the No. 7 seed.

Seth Curry scored 23 points for the Nets. Kyrie Irving, whose unavailability of home matches for most of the season because he was not vaccinated against the Corona virus, resulted in a net performance well below expectations, with 20 points.

“There are a lot of things that might influence why we lost, but they were just a better team,” Durant said.

The Celtics were under .500 midway through their season but went 31-10 from there, with Tatum emerging as the scoring star on one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.

This defense limited Durant to just 19-52 shooting with 17 turns in his first three games and made it difficult for him to finally have more shots on Monday. He’s only been 13 of 31 from the field, and 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 has won nine consecutive first-round series.

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 remaining and made a push that left them within three points after about three minutes.

Tatum juggled the Celtics with a six-goal lead with a 2:48 play rate. Irving made 3 pointers and Durant scored to cut it to 109-108 with 1:28 remaining. But after a basket from Brown, Durant managed only one free throw and the Celtics rushed to the ground, Al Horford put Smart’s wasted back to 113-109 with 13 seconds left.

Tatum was surprised by his sixth mistake, but said he had no doubts the Celtics would hold out without him.

“I don’t believe it at all, but I think that’s what we were built for,” Tatum said.

With Durant, Irving and James Harden, the Nets started the season as a team that looked strong enough to win their first NBA title. But Irving never played to start the season, and not long after he returned to playing only road games, Harden became unhappy and the Nets treated him to Philadelphia in a deal with Ben Simmons.

The Nets had hoped Simmons could make their debut for them in Game 4, but were left out on Sunday due to more back pain that bothered him not long ago after arriving in a mid-season deal with Philadelphia.

Irving said his feelings were “a disappointment, a bit of sadness, because we didn’t play as a team as we wanted to.”

Tatum didn’t have a basket in the first quarter, but he started fast in the second quarter with two 3-pointers and another three. Durant kept the nets close and they were down 45-44 after Curry found the corner for a 3 pointer with 3:29 to play. But Grant Williams made three three-pointers from then until the break, the latter giving Boston a 58-50 lead.

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