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Takeaways from Celtics vs. Pacers Game 4: Jaylen Brown earned East Finals MVP

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers - Game Four

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MAY 27: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics raises The Larry Bird Trophy after winning Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on May 27, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

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For the third time in four games, it was close down the stretch of an Eastern Conference Finals game, but the result was the same every time — Boston’s depth and experience won out.

The Celtics are on to the NBA Finals (likely to face Dallas). The young Pacers will likely run it back next season and expect better results than the Lakers (who were swept out of the West Finals in a competitive series a year ago, ran it back, and took a step back this season losing in the first round to the same team).

Here are three takeaways from Game 4.

Jaylen Brown earned East Finals MVP

Jaylen Brown was genuinely surprised to hear his name called as the Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

He started Game 4 slowly, shooting 1-of-7, but got rolling in the second half and hit 10 of his next 15 shots. In the end, he led the Celtics with 29 points and hit 4-of-8 from 3. Brown averaged 29.8 points, five rebounds, and two steals a game for the series while shooting 51.7%.

And he hit the biggest shot of the series back in Game 1, forcing OT in a game the Celtics frankly should have lost.

“I think I’m one of the best two-way wings, guards in this game…" Brown said of his play in this series (after an All-NBA snub). “I feel like I should’ve been All-Defensive, and that probably hurt me the most because that’s one of the things I set out this season
that I wanted to be.”

Brown is going to need to play at a Finals MVP level starting June 6 if the Celtics want to hang banner No. 18. While Celtics fans may want to note their team rolled the Mavericks back on March 1, they will see a different Dallas team in the Finals — that game was before Jason Kidd moved Daniel Gafford and Derrick Jones Jr. into the starting lineup and made this the best defensive team in the league over the final 20 games. Plus, let’s be honest, Boston has not been pushed and tested anything like what Dallas had to go through to reach the Finals — the Mavericks are harder and sharper right now. That’s no fault of the Celtics, they beat the teams in front of them, but the team they are about to face is much better and much more focused than any the Celtics have seen. Prepare your welcome for Kyrie Irving’s return, he is playing great team basketball right now.

NBC’s betting analyst Drew Dinsick and I discussed how betting on Brown (and Doncic) may be the plays for Finals MVP. Jayson Tatum understandably has the lowest odds, but if Boston is going to win, it will need another series like this one from Brown (and if Dallas is going to win Doncic has to be the best player on the floor).

Brown earned that East Finals MVP. The Celtics need at least four more games like that from him next month.

Give Andrew Nembhard his flowers

When Tyrese Haliburton strained his hamstring and missed the final two games of this series, Andrew Nembhard stepped up — 56 points in those two games hitting 7-of-13 from 3 and shooting 56.4% overall.

Nembhard showed he has a bag. They ran the offense through him at points back when he was at Gonzaga, but not much with the Pacers because they have Haliburton. Nembhard also has some dog in him.

Nembhard will be part of a stacked Canadian national team that will play in Paris in the Summer Olympics starting in July. The team includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Nickel Alexander-Walker, Lu Dort, Kelly Olynyk, Zach Edey, and more.

What will be interesting is how Rick Carlisle uses Nembhard next season. The Pacers are Haliburton’s team, and Pascal Siakam needs touches (as does Myles Turner), but Nembhard is too good not to feature more in the offense and give him a chance.

Nembhard is one reason to think this is just the first step for a Pacers team that could be near the top of the East for Years.

What is a Flagrant foul anymore?

There was a time — like, earlier this season — where a blow to the head was an automatic Flagrant 1 foul, intent did not matter.

Now… where is the line?

This by Isaiah Jackson was ruled not a flagrant — it’s certainly not intentional but it’s not a natural leaping motion and he kicked Payton Pritchard to the face.

This was a clear flagrant by Jaylen Brown on T.J. McConnell, but lead official Zach Zarba reviewed it and said “although unfortunate” it did not rise to the level of a Flagrant because there was no windup and follow through.

The officiating crew blew both of those. Full stop.

The NBA’s (unwritten) policy of allowing more physicality from defenders is a good thing, but there’s a line that cannot be crossed because of player safety. A kick or a punch to the head crosses that line. Both of these should have been flagrant fouls.

The pendulum has swung too far the other way, but the NBA replay center and officials will not see it until a more serious injury forces them to adjust.

“Bet the Edge” is your source for the day in betting the NBA. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick’s insight throughout the playoffs weekdays at 6AM ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.”