Jayson Tatum (file photo). Alamy Stock Photo

Celtics roar back to push Pacers to brink of elimination

Jayson Tatum scored 36 points as the Boston Celtics produced a big comeback win.

THE BOSTON CELTICS,, fuelled by 36 points from Jayson Tatum, erased an 18-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-111 on Saturday and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

Tatum added 10 rebounds and eight assists, Jaylen Brown scored 24 points and Al Horford made seven three-pointers on the way to 23 points.

But the shift came when the Celtics found a way to slow down Indiana’s high-octane offense in the second half to snatch the win in Indianapolis, where they’ll try to close out the series on Monday.

“Closeout games are the hardest,” Tatum said, cautioning that the Celtics can’t afford to relax despite the fact that no NBA team has rallied from 0-3 down to win a playoff series.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle certainly wasn’t ready to wave the white flag.

“We’re going to be undeterred, we’re going to be back here Monday night looking to extend the series and we’re going to come at them even harder,” vowed Carlisle, who said the Pacers played “a courageous game.”

NBA / YouTube

Indiana, who were unbeaten in six prior home games this post-season, came out determined to avoid the 0-3 hole despite the absence of All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who aggravated the left hamstring strain that troubled him this season in game two.

Andrew Nembhard, taking over at point guard, scored 32 points and handed out nine assists and Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner scored 22 apiece for the Pacers, who pushed their lead to 18 in the second quarter and again in the third.

But a three-point play by Jrue Holiday, who was fouled on a driving layup and made the free throw, put the Celtics up 112-111 with 38.9 seconds to play.

It was their first lead since the first moments of the second quarter and they made it stand up, Holiday coming up with a decisive steal from Nembhard and making a pair of free throws to seal it.

“I think the and-one I just saw the opportunity,” said Holiday, who was questionable to start because of illness until shortly before the game. “I think Siakam was on his heels so I just attacked him and got the and-one.”

– © AFP 2024

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