Celtics escape Pacers in Game 1 of NBA Eastern Conference finals

NBA: Celtics escape Pacers in Game 1 of Eastern Conference finals

/ 11:50 AM May 22, 2024

Jaylen Brown Celtics beat Pacers Game 1 NBA playoffs

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) puts up a 3-point shot to score and tie the game against the Indiana Pacers with seconds left in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON — Jayson Tatum scored 36 points, including 10 in overtime after Jaylen Brown’s tying 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds remaining in regulation, and the Boston Celtics rallied just in time for a 133-128 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Jrue Holiday added a season-high 28 points and Brown finished with 26.

Game 2 is Thursday night in Boston.

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Tyrese Haliburton had 25 points and 10 assists for the Pacers, who knocked down 13 3-pointers and scored 56 points in the paint against a Celtics team still playing without 7-footer Kristaps Porzingis.

But Boston dialed up its defense, finishing with 11 steals — three each by Brown, Tatum and Holiday. The Celtics become the first team in NBA playoff history to have three players record 25 points and three steals in a game.

READ: NBA: Title favorite Celtics meet proud underdog Pacers in East finals

“We keep talking about protecting home court,” Celtics forward Al Horford said. “It’s whatever it takes.”

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Pascal Siakam added 24 points and 12 rebounds. Myles Turner finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Pacers, who twice turned it over with a three-point lead in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

Brown made them pay for the second one, hitting a 3 from the corner with Siakam right in his face to tie it at 117.

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“Jaylen had great balance,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Great pass, great shot.”

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said the loss was “totally on me” for not calling a timeout to advance the ball before their turnover that set up Brown’s shot.

Asked about the 21 turnovers Indiana committed, Haliburton said many of them were preventable.

“I think it’s more on us,” he said. “I just felt like more of them were probably on us than them forcing turnovers.”

READ: Celtics in good headspace ahead of third straight NBA East finals

The Celtics are now 2-2 when their opponent scores 100 or more points.

“I think we always knew that there’s always a chance. We’ve seen crazy stuff happen all the time,” Holiday said. “I don’t think that we think we lost the game until we actually lost the game and that’s part of the reason why we were so resilient.”

Indiana went back ahead 123-121 when Haliburton hit all three free throws after being fouled with 1:46 remaining. Tatum then muscled in a layup and was fouled by T.J. McConnell. He completed the three-point play to put Boston ahead for good.

The Pacers turned it over again, this time by Haliburton. The ball found its way to Tatum at the top of key. He pumped, sidestepped a defender and sunk a 3 to make it 127-123 with 43 seconds left.

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Derrick White and Siakam traded layups. Holiday was fouled and hit two free throws to give Boston a 131-125 cushion.

“It’s unfortunate we did so many good things in this game that it came down to a couple of mistakes at the end, but it’s the NBA playoffs,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to bounce back”

TAGS: Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers

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