Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Celtics 133, Pacers 128: Jayson Tatum drops 36, Jaylen Brown forces OT in Game 1 win [BOS leads series, 1-0]

Behind some late game heroics, the Celtics held on to defeat the Indiana Pacers 133-128 in overtime at TD Garden to take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston's All-Stars stepped up when they needed to and were able to overcome a five-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation.

Jayson Tatum had a game-high 36 points on 12-of-26 from the field, to go along with 12 rebounds while his co-star Jaylen Brown added 26 points, including the most important shot of the night. Jrue Holiday had his best game as a Celtic, scoring a playoff-high 28 points and tallied seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals in the victory.

Tyrese Haliburton led the Pacers with 25 points, 10 assists while Pascal Siakam added 24 points, seven assists and Myles Turner notched a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds. Indiana got production throughout their rotation as the team had seven players in double digits scoring, including three players scoring at least 23 points.

With 8.5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, fans throughout the arena stood anxiously in their seats with the C's down by three. Following a Turner rebound, Boston quickly fouled and the Pacers looked primed to sneak out of Boston with a shocking victory. The Celtics didn't give up however, as Brown, reading the Andrew Nembhard inbound pass, forced a Siakam turnover, giving his team possession.

Running off a White screen, Brown rolled to the left corner off a Holiday assist, where he knocked down a contested trey over Siakam to tie the game with only six seconds remaining -- which forced Haliburton into a tough shot, as the contest headed into overtime.
"It was a well executed play by the guys," said head coach Joe Mazzulla postgame. "I thought D-White set a great screen, I thought Jaylen had great balance, great pass, great shot, so it was just a well executed play by the guys. Good situational awareness, good situational execution."
Neither team was able to score in the first minute of overtime, but Boston would start to get their offense going behind Tatum, who added 10 points alone in the extra session.

The Pacers looked to regain some control, after a Tatum turnover led to an easy fast break 3-point opportunity for Haliburton, who was fouled by White. After Indiana grabbed the lead, Tatum answered quickly by cutting to the basket, out-muscling Nembhard off a White pass, and finished a right-handed layup off the glass over T.J McConnell to complete an and-one.

Shortly after, Tatum made his best shot of the night, sidestepping to the left at the top of the key and draining a trey in between two defenders to give his team a four point advantage. Brown sealed the Celtics fate on the defensive end on the next possession, stripping Siakam and giving Boston the chance to close the game out with free throws the rest of the night.

Although the game was determined in the clutch, the Celtics looked primed to take full control, coming out with a vengeance from the opening tip, as their defense set the tone early.

Following a series of steals and strong ball movement, Boston got out to a quick 12-0 run to open the game. However, Indiana wouldn't lay down -- despite missing their first six attempts from the field -- the Pacers would go on to make 12 of their next 17 shots behind Obi Toppin's 11 points off the bench, leaving the Celtics with a three point advantage after one.

Building off their historic shooting night against the New York Knicks in Game 7, the Pacers offense continued to ride the momentum hitting 59% from the field in the first half. Both teams capped off the first 24 minutes on a strong note with a pair of last second shots. After White drained a three at the top of the key, Haliburton answered quickly on the other end with a logo trey that left the game tied (64-64) at the break.

The Celtics went on three separate runs in the third, including a 13-0 spurt to end quarter, but the Pacers would respond. Going on a 9-0 run, the Pacers hung around, and Halliburton topped off the period with another difficult 28-foot 3-pointer over Brown at the buzzer.

Boston’s effort in the fourth quarter and overtime ended up being the deciding factor in the victory, as the team's stars helped close out the Pacers in Game 1. The Pacers put up a good fight, but Boston's defensive intensity down the stretch paired with some big shots helped the team improve to 5-2 at the Garden during the playoffs. 

With plenty of criticism surrounding the team's struggles at home along with their play in close games this postseason, the victory Tuesday night was something the Celtics have been working on all season -- both to prove they can perform at their best in the clutch and in front of their fans.
"It sets a big tone, it's important. We have to protect home court, and I know we've talked about this but we have to do it, I'm glad we did it tonight," said Al Horford (15 points, six rebounds) in his postgame interview with NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin.
Boston hopes to put their Game 2 woes behind them Thursday night and take a 2-0 series lead, as it will be available to watch on ESPN at 8:00 pm ET.

Game Notes:

The Pacers hit better from the field at 53.5% and 13-of-35 from behind the arc while the Celtics connected on 47.5% and 15-of-45 from deep. Boston dominated Indiana in free throws, as they knocked down 24-of-30 from the charity stripe and held the Pacers to only 10 attempts. The home team forced 22 turnovers, while committing 15 turnovers. Indiana dished out 38 assists on 53 baskets to the C's 30 dimes on 47 made shots.

Ian Carrano

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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