June 25, 2024

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NBA Takeaways: Jaylen Brown and Celtics beat Pacers in overtime to take Game 1 of East Finals

NBA Takeaways: Jaylen Brown and Celtics beat Pacers in overtime to take Game 1 of East Finals

Written by Jared Weiss, Jay King, Eric Nehm, James Boyd, and Tobias Bass

In just the third overtime game of the NBA playoffs, the Boston Celtics outlasted the Indiana Pacers to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals 133-128 on Tuesday night.

Boston outscored Indiana 16-11 in overtime to stay alive. Jaylen Brown hit a layup 3 with 5.7 seconds left to tie the game and send it into overtime after Indiana took a late lead.

Although the Pacers took the lead, they started the game as poorly as one could imagine, as Boston opened the evening with a 12-0 run. But Indiana came back strong with 22 assists in the first half and tied it at 64 points before halftime on a Tyrese Haliburton 3.

Jayson Tatum (36 points, 12 rebounds, four assists), Brown (26 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Jrue Holiday (28 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) led the way for Boston.

Indiana’s big three scored more than 20 points, led by Haliburton (25 points, 10 assists, three rebounds) and Pascal Siakam (24 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists). The Pacers will look to tie up the series at 8pm ET on Thursday in Boston.

Slow and steady wins the game?

The Celtics have been playing at a slow pace in their postseason run against teams with depleted offenses. Things are different now. The Pacers don’t just run away from brands or love a quick breakfast. They have flow and side-to-side movement in their half-court offense that makes it difficult for the Celtics to keep up with at times.

Indiana had 38 assists on Tuesday, providing disruption in ball movement and mid-range shooting whenever things slow down. But it wasn’t until Boston was able to slow things down and get physical in overtime that the Celtics really looked like themselves.

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Indiana will clearly test the Celtics to maintain their identity throughout this series, as Boston has made some hasty mistakes trying to keep up with Indiana’s pace. But the Pacers generated 22 turnovers, and once Boston figured out how to put pressure on them in a big way, the Celtics’ transition offense started to look like its usual self.

Haliburton’s portrayal of Holiday has been a major development of late, and Joe Mazzola must decide how far he wants Holiday to take the role in the future. This is one way to take away control of this franchise’s identity – anything that takes away Haliburton’s freedom of movement and forces everyone else to be the slopestyle playmaker. Indiana is a worthy opponent and came admirably prepared with a defensive game plan on such short notice. Can the Pacers keep it up? The answer for Celtics opponents so far is no. But Indiana State is relatively healthy and shoots the ball hard, so it has a chance. — Jared Weiss, Celtics staff writer

Go deeper

Celtics-Pacers Predictions: Anonymous Scout, Coach, Executive Picks Eastern Conference Finals

The Pacers’ offensive tempo could lead to problems for the C’s

Before Game 1, Mazzola called the series a “big test” for the Celtics defense. He believed that Indiana’s unpredictable spacing, constant movement, and fast pace would present unique challenges. Throughout the regular season, no one played faster than the Pacers. They entered Tuesday ranked first in the playoffs in offensive efficiency after finishing second behind only Boston during the regular season.

After passing the test early during a hot 12-0 start, the Celtics nearly failed the rest of the test. They pulled ahead by double digits in each half but were unable to maintain either lead. The Pacers’ bench, which had been red-hot throughout the playoffs, mounted a third-quarter charge to eliminate nearly all of Boston’s 13-point advantage.

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Haliburton scored a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to reduce Indiana’s lead to 94-93, then Siakam opened the fourth quarter with a jumper to put the Celtics behind. They responded early in the fourth period but could never keep the pace of the Pacers offense down. Siakam and Andrew Nembhard scored past Al Horford multiple times, and the Celtics needed a crazy finish to regulation to force overtime.

Boston’s defense will need to lock down the rest of the series to give themselves an easier time. — Jay King, Celtics staff writer

The Pacers’ efforts were undermined by sloppy play

The Pacers came to TD Garden prepared to shock the world. They withstood multiple blows from the Celtics and played like the calmer team to take a three-point lead with 46.8 seconds left. Then everything collapsed.

After making a stop on defense, Haliburton raced down the floor but lost control of the ball and dribbled it out of bounds. The Pacers withstood that mistake and got another stop on defense. With 10 seconds remaining, all they had to do was make a successful punt and accept a foul from the Celtics to seal the game at the free throw line. Instead, they turned the ball over as Nembhard tried to get the ball to Siakam. On the ensuing play, Brown hit the corner three to tie the game.

In overtime, the Pacers again withstood pressure from the Celtics to take a two-point lead with 1:46 remaining in overtime, but then Indiana committed two more turnovers and the Celtics took control. In the end, the Pacers’ sloppy play to close the game erased their strong, composed effort in the first 47:50. — Eric Nehm is a senior writer at PAX

Halliburton might take some heat

Haliburton’s season changed in the blink of an eye with one misstep against the Celtics on January 8. The Pacers star pulled his left hamstring and was carried off the field at Gainbridge Fieldhouse with a towel over his head.

On Tuesday night, he was barking and barking at TD Garden fans while putting on a show against the same team whose best season was about to be derailed. It took months for Haliburton to regain his pre-injury form, but with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line, there were times when he looked at the peak of his powers when the Pacers were competing with the Celtics.

It’s still not enough.

Haliburton took some heat after some lackluster performances during its first playoff run, and while it has turned a corner, it will take some heat in this matchup as well. After a strong showing in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden two nights ago, he played well against the Celtics before faltering in the game’s biggest moment. Haliburton drilled a 35-foot 3-pointer to tie the game just before halftime and hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to cut the Celtics’ lead to one point heading into the fourth. However, his 25 points, 10 assists and six 3s were all for nothing. — James Boyd, Colts staff writer

(Top photo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum: Maddy Meyer/Getty Images)