Sunday, May 26, 2024

Celtics 114, Pacers 111: Jayson Tatum leads C's in Game 3 comeback win [BOS leads series, 3-0]

The Celtics are one win away from another trip to the NBA Finals, following their 18-point comeback to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-111 in Game 3 Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Jayson Tatum made NBA playoff history by being the first player to record 36 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists without committing a single turnover. The All-NBA wing went 12-of-23 from the field, including hitting 5-of-10 from deep to go along with two blocks and a steal in his most complete performance of the postseason.
"Game 3 is always the toughest, just because you're going to a new environment, their first home game," Tatum said in his postgame presser after notching a near triple-double. "Obviously, they're excited to be back home, and we expect a great atmosphere. They've been really good at home, so we gotta be that much better."
Jaylen Brown, who came off a 40-point scoring display in Game 2, finished with 24 points while Al Horford added 23 points on 7-of-12 from 3-point range and Derrick White chipped in 13 points, seven assists to help the Celtics improve to a perfect 5-0 on the road so far during the postseason.

Jrue Holiday also contributed with 14 points and nine rebounds, but it was his one of three steals that clinched Boston the victory in the final minute of Game 3 -- a testament to his efforts as a six-time All-Defense recipient -- despite being listed as questionable with a non-COVID listed and cleared just prior to tip-off.
"Yeah, I didn't feel too well," Holiday said in his postgame comments. "But I guess I just figured if I got a good day's rest or try to sleep through it that it would help me for tonight. But it's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, so I wasn't going to miss this game."
The Pacers, playing without Tyrese Haliburton (hamstring), were led by Andrew Nembhard's 32 points (12-of-21 shooting) and nine assists, while T.J. McConnell scored 23 points and dished out six assists off the bench. Pascal Siakim and Myles Turner each netted 23 points respectively for Indiana  -- who lost for the first time at home this postseason in seven tries.

The game was tied at 33 apiece with under 11 minutes left in the first half, before the Pacers went on a 20-6 run to go ahead 69-57 at the break.

Another 15-9 spurt by Indy to start the third, gave them their largest lead of the night (84-66) capped off by a McConnell pull-up jumper with 6:04 remaining in the quarter.

Boston finally woke up and responded with a 15-7 scoring run of their own to slice the deficit to single-digits heading into the final frame behind nine points from Tatum in the period alone.
"One of those timeouts in the third quarter, Joe just kind of told us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves," Tatum told reporters. "Whatever situation we're in, that's the situation that we're in. It's on us to figure it out.

"Things weren't going our way. We weren't hitting shots at the time. It seemed like they were coming out and scoring every single time. Maybe we were slow to bring the ball up the court. When we get scored on, we might put our head down. It felt like shit wasn't going our way. Joe always talks about how it's not always going to go how we want it to or we expect it to. That's OK. It's OK to be down 15 or 17 on the road and still have an opportunity to win the game."
The C's continued to chip away and got within three (93-90) on a Horford 3-pointer with 8:31 left, but Indiana pulled away scoring the next eight of 13 points that eventually turned into an eight-point margin down the stretch.

Tatum connected on a top-of-the-key 3-ball to cut it down to three and found Horford again wide-open in the left-hand corner with a nifty behind-the-back pass to hit his seventh 3-pointer of the night on the next offensive possession.

Boston trailed 111-109 with 1:12 left on clock, when Holiday was fouled on the game-tying layup. The veteran guard sank the go-ahead free throw -- giving the C's their first lead since the opening quarter.

Following a missed Nembhrand 12-footer, Tatum blew a layup on the other end before an off-balanced Holiday stole the ball on the next defensive possession -- forcing Indiana to foul once again.
"I think I just made a play," said Holiday of his steal against Nembhard. "I feel like he's a right-hand driver and he's been very, very aggressive all night. Great player, had a great game, but I just made a play. I kind of jumped his right hand and got the steal."
Holiday polished off a 13-2 run with a pair of made free throws -- sealing the win and completing the comeback, as the Celtics limited Indiana to just 42 points in the final two quarters.
"It was definitely a team effort," said Holiday of Boston's comeback. "I think from being down 18, we knew that we can lock in defensively and be better, and it showed. But it was definitely a team effort."
The Celtics will look to close-out the Pacers Monday night and advance back to the championship round for the second time in three seasons. ESPN has the Game 4 broadcast beginning at 8:00 pm ET.

Game Notes:

Boston was 47% from the field, including 16-of-46 (34.8%) from 3-point range, while the Pacers were 50.5% from the floor and 5-of-22 (22.7%) from long range. The C's were out-rebounded 43-36 and outscored in the paint 68-40. Indiana handed out 32 assists (11 turnovers) on 46 baskets to the Celtics 24 dimes (eight rebounds) on 39 made shots. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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