The Celtics Pulled Off A Double-Digit Comeback To Move One Win Away From The NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics needed to come back from as many as 18 points down on Saturday night in Game 3 against the Tyrese Haliburton-less Indiana Pacers. And while it came down to the final moments of the game, Boston was able to get the job done, picking up a 114-111 win in Gainbridge Fieldhouse to move one win away from a sweep and a berth in the NBA Finals.

The thought coming into Game 3 was that Boston would simply run Indiana off the floor. While the Pacers have been outstanding in their own building this postseason, having to beat a Celtics team with a major talent advantage while Haliburton watched on the sideline with an injury seemed to be too much to overcome, and early on, it looked like that would be the case. Boston spent much of the first quarter getting anything it wanted, opening up a lead of as many as nine points.

And then, the Pacers attacked the rim over, and over, and over again. Led by the Andrew Nembhard, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner, and T.J. McConnell off of the bench, Indiana had a startling 42-18 edge on points in the paint, as the team repeatedly cooked Boston’s perimeter defense and got good looks near the rim.

They led by as many as 18 points, and shot a scintillating 28-for-44 (63.6 percent) from the field. And as a result, despite a 20-point half by Jayson Tatum and the Celtics having a solid shooting half (50 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from three), the Pacers took a 69-57 lead into the locker room at halftime, with Nembhard doing an excellent job filling the hole Haliburton left to the tune of 21 points and five rebounds in the first half.

While Indiana was able to get its lead back up to 18 early on in the third quarter, Boston was not deterred, and never quite let the Pacers land the knockout blow — their defense became a little more secure in the third, as they limited Indiana to only 21 points in the period.

Whether that inability to put Boston away breathed some life into the Celtics or not is unclear, but the 1-seed in the East started to ramp up its intensity on the defensive end of the floor. Eventually, that led to a bit of success on offense, too, as Boston was able to able to go on a 10-2 run late in the third to cut the lead down to as few as seven. While a Doug McDermott tip-in to close the third snapped the run, the once-gigantic Indiana lead was down to 90-81 as the game entered its final 12 minutes.

Boston continued to chip away to start the final frame, and got the lead down to three points thanks to an early 9-3 run. Indiana did have a response, though, as the team created a little breathing room by getting the lead back up to seven.

Back and forth the two teams went, with the Celtics having a response for everything the Pacers did and vice versa. Even when Brown had one of the nastiest dunks of the playoffs, Nembhard came right back down and dropped a jumper to inject some life back into Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

But the Celtics just would not die, and with his seventh three of the night, Al Horford made sure it would be a two-point game as things entered the final minute. And after a Pacers miss, Jrue Holiday made his way into the paint, made a layup, got fouled, and converted from the charity stripe to give Boston a 112-111 lead with 39 seconds to go.

Nembhard couldn’t knock down a jumper as Indiana decided to go for a 2-for-1, but the door got cracked open as a Tatum layup did not go down. Instead of calling a timeout and drawing up a play, Rick Carlisle decided to let them play it out, but Holiday stonewalled Nembhard as he attempted to drive and poked the ball away from him.

Holiday got fouled and knocked down both free throws, meaning Indiana needed a three in the final 1.7 seconds to extend the game. And while they were able to get a clean look, Aaron Nesmith’s effort did not go down.

Tatum was the star on the night, going for 36 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and a steal. Horford turned back the clock by going for 23 points and hitting seven threes, while Brown had 24. Nembhard’s 32 points led Indiana, while McConnell stuffed the stat sheet with 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and a steal. Both Siakam and Turner scored 22 points.

Indiana will now fight for its playoff life in Game 4, while Boston finds itself one win away from making it to the NBA Finals. Game 4 will take place on Monday night at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.