Monday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
Game Recap: Pacers 122, Celtics 112
Tyrese Haliburton has never played in a playoff game in his young career, but you wouldn't know it from the performance Indiana's All-Star guard put on in Monday's In-Season Tournament Quarterfinal at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Haliburton recorded his first career triple-double, scored 19 points in the second half, and hit a shot that will go down in Pacers lore to give Indiana the lead for good, as the Blue & Gold (11-8) stunned the heavily favored Boston Celtics (15-5) — owners of the NBA's best record — to advance to the In-Season Tournament Semifinals on Thursday night in Las Vegas with a 122-112 win.
With the game tied at 105 and less than two minutes remaining, Haliburton drew Celtics center Al Horford onto him on the right wing. After getting a pick from Hield, Jaylen Brown switched on to the Pacers All-Star. Sensing the shot clock running down, Haliburton hoisted a one-hand shot high into the air, drawing contract from Brown.
The ball sailed high into the air before falling through the net, sending the capacity crowd at The Fieldhouse into an eruption. "M-V-P" chants broke out as Haliburton sealed the four-point play at the free throw line.
"I just saw some daylight, saw some space," Haliburton said of the pivotal shot. "Put it up and it went in."
After Jayson Tatum missed a three at the other end, Haliburton connected with Buddy Hield for a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to seven with 55.3 seconds to play. Myles Turner then came up with a steal on a Derrick White pass, springing a fastbreak where Haliburton set up Aaron Nesmith for a thunderous right-hand dunk to seal the victory and sent the entire arena into a frenzy.
Haliburton finished with a team-high 26 points, going 10-for-18 from the field and 5-for-11 from 3-point range, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists. Though he had been battling an illness that kept him out of Saturday's game in Miami, the 23-year-old guard had no intentions of missing Monday's showdown with the Celtics and played a team-high 40 minutes to lead the Blue & Gold to victory.
He told TNT's Stephanie Ready after the game that he struggled to breathe in the first half and used an inhaler at halftime, but felt much more comfortable over the final two quarters.
Hield added 21 points on 4-of-6 3-point shooting and five other Pacers finished in double figures. The balanced attack carried Indiana to a fifth straight win to open In-Season Tournament Play.
They will face the winner of Tuesday's East Semifinal between Milwaukee and New York on Thursday in Las Vegas.
"When the boat starts rocking, when you're in a home game in the playoffs, that's when special things can happen," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said after the victory. "Down the stretch, Tyrese hits the four-point play. I certainly feel like the crowd and the energy had something to do with that. And our crowd was amazing. They were amazing all night long. Hats off to them."
The Pacers and Celtics were tied at 94 midway through the fourth quarter on Monday, after Brown's 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run by Boston.
The two teams traded buckets on the next four possessions. Tatum hit one of two free throws with 4:19 remaining to put the Celtics in front, but Haliburton answered with his fourth three of the night on the other end. Out of a timeout, Brown got a cutting dunk to tie the game with 3:10 remaining.
Hield's layup with 2:52 to play gave the Blue & Gold the lead once again, but Tatum drew a foul and hit both free throws on the other end. Nesmith converted a layup at 2:21 before Tatum responded by hitting a contested jumper over his former teammate Nesmith with 1:57 remaining, setting the stage for a wild finish.
Turner (eight points) and Bruce Brown (seven) carried the Indiana offense early, combining for 15 of the Blue & Gold's first 17 points. The Pacers led 15-9 following Turner's three-point play with 6:49 remaining in the opening frame, but the Celtics limited Indiana to just seven points for the rest of the period.
Brown scored 10 points and Sam Hauser hit two threes to propel the Celtics to a narrow 24-22 lead after the first 12 minutes.
The second quarter was tightly contested, with five ties and 10 lead changes. Neither team led by more than three points for the first 10 minutes of the quarter.
But Boston broke things open somewhat before halftime, with White and Tatum combining for a 10-0 run.
White's cutting layup off a dish from Tatum put the Celtics in front 47-46 with 2:30 remaining in the half. Out of a timeout, White then hit a three to push the margin to four. The next trip down, Tatum spun around Haliburton on the baseline and rose up for a two-hand slam. The All-NBA forward then capped the run with a deep pull-up three on the next possession.
Two free throws by Bruce Brown in the final minute shaved two points off the margin, but the Pacers headed to halftime trailing by seven, 55-48.
Like he's done so often this season, Haliburton got the offense going in the third quarter. On Indiana's opening possession of the second half, he threw a no-look dish to a cutting Turner for a layup. The All-Star guard then hit a 30-foot step-back three two possessions later, then drove and converted a layup where he switched hands mid air the next trip down the court.
While the Blue & Gold's offense was rolling, the shotmaking of Tatum and Brown kept the Celtics in front for the first several minutes of the third quarter, but the dam eventually broke for Indiana.
Bruce Brown's three-point play tied the game at the 5:30 mark. Haliburton's runner on Indiana's next possession gave the Pacers their first lead of the second half. He added another layup off a dish from Hield to cap a 7-0 run.
Hoping to get them some rest ahead of the fourth quarter, Carlisle subbed out Haliburton and Turner during a timeout with 3:39 remaining in the third.
With their two leading scorers on the bench, Indiana gave up a three to Hauser, but then reeled off 10 straight unanswered points. T.J. McConnell started the scoring with a layup, then Bennedict Mathurin and Hield knocked down back-to-back threes. McConnell capped the run by jumping a passing lane to come up with a steal and then dishing to Hield for a fastbreak jam.
The Celtics scored the final four points of the third quarter, but the Pacers still took an 85-78 lead into the fourth after a 37-point third quarter.
"We just changed some things schematically on the defensive end," Haliburton said of the adjustments at halftime. "...We did a good job of changing it up a little bit and figuring it out defensively. And if we just get a couple stops, we're going to run. And nobody wants to run with us when we get stops."
Boston managed to whittle the lead down to two on two occasions early in the final frame, but Indiana quickly pushed the margin back to seven thanks to a Mathurin three and a Turner hook shot.
That's where the margin stood with under eight minutes to play, but the Celtics came charging back. A Tatum jumper and White layup brought Boston within one possession. Then, Tatum missed a contested three, but the rebound went right to Horford, who kicked out to Brown for the tying three with 6:07 remaining.
That set the stage for a wild finish.
Turner had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the victory. Mathurin added 16 points while going 4-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc. Nesmith (14 points), Bruce Brown (13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals), and Obi Toppin (12 points) all finished in double figures.
Tatum led all scorers with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. Brown added 30 points and nine rebounds for Boston, White tallied 18 points and eight assists, while Hauser scored 15 on 5-of-7 3-point shooting.
The Pacers will await the result of Tuesday's other East Quarterfinal between the Bucks and Knicks in Milwaukee to find out their Semifinal opponent in Vegas. The winner of Thursday's Semifinal game will advance to the Championship on Saturday to play for the inaugural NBA Cup.
"Good to win, especially in games where nobody expected us to," Haliburton said. "You don't play on national TV if you don't win games. The more we come out here and prove on a night-to-night basis that we can win games, it's going to change. That's what we're about right now, changing how this organization is viewed and how we as players (are) viewed, and just coming out here and competing every night."
Inside the Numbers
Haliburton recorded his 14th double-double in 17 games this season and recorded the first triple-double in his four-year NBA career. He came within one rebound of his career high and recorded a new Pacers career high with 10 boards. He also had zero turnovers.
Turner registered his sixth double-double of the season.
The Pacers went 19-for-40 (47.5 percent) from 3-point range on Monday, compared to the Celtics, who were just 12-for-41 (29.3 percent) from beyond the arc. It was the sixth time in 19 games this season that Indiana has made 19 or more threes.
Mathurin matched his season high with four 3-pointers off the bench. He went just 1-for-7 from inside the arc, but 4-for-7 from long distance.
Seven players reached double figures for the fifth time this season. The Pacers are 4-1 when seven players score 10 or more.
Indiana committed a season-low six turnovers on Monday and also forced the Celtics into 18 giveaways.
The Celtics outscored the Pacers 32-14 in points in the paint in the first half, but Indiana won that battle 30-24 over the final two quarters.
Indiana Pacers Postgame Media Availability (vs Boston Celtics) | December 4, 2023
You Can Quote Me On That
"When you've got a crowd like we do, they will you to win games. Certainly in an atmosphere like this, you string a few stops together and get a few buckets...It got pretty damn loud in here. We obviously were feeding off that. Just credit to our fans. They're amazing." -McConnell
"Bro, I hadn't seen this place like this in like three or four years, man. That was incredible. Just the energy in the building, they never really died down. It was very consistent. Obviously when it got to the fourth quarter, (Haliburton) made some huge plays. I think the city is really starting to rally around this team." -Turner
"I don't even know if it was as much about what was at stake as much as what they did to us last time we played. They beat us pretty bad...I think that just left a little bit of a bad taste in our mouth. Wanted to come out here and respond the right way." -Haliburton on wanting to avenge a 51-point loss to the Celtics in Boston on Nov. 1
"I feel like we always responded when they made their runs. They have two hell of a good players over there, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum making tough shot after tough shot. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to them because that's what good players do. But Tyrese was able to weather the storm, help us out and get us in our spots and we were able to close the game." -Hield
"There was never a doubt for me when I got sick...This was no question. Didn't matter. I was going to play tonight." -Haliburton on playing through illness
"He was terrific. As the game went on, he became more and more determined on the defensive end. They were trying to attack him to wear him down...He got deflections, he scooped up loose balls. And some of the shotmaking and the assists were breathtaking. Really happy for him. There will be many, many more triple-doubles to come I'm sure." -Carlisle on Haliburton
"I know when his confidence is up, we feed off of that. So when he's starting to make shots, when he's jumping around, he's getting the crowd involved, the energy is just infectious. Everybody starts to feel it. Now we're a little bit more amped up and what not...I've seen this guy do this countless times since he's been here." -Turner on Haliburton
"From the minute I got here, I felt the love from this organization and fan base. It really means the world to me to have the opportunity to represent Indiana and represent this storied organization...I'm in an amazing part of my life right now. I'm 23 years old and thrust into one of the best positions you can possibly be in. It's really exciting for me. But at the end of the day, I just want to win." -Haliburton on feeling the love in Indiana
"This is something that's great for us. We need high-level competition. It really is another thing that is a simulator of playoff basketball." -Carlisle on the IST
"That's just who Aaron Nesmith is. I think he's shown that time and time again...Indy loves a guy that gets out there and dives on the floor and gets guys going. I think he's truly embraced that role. We know when the other team has a star player, we stick him on them and expect the best." -Turner on Nesmith's contributions on both ends
"He's just a relentless competitor. In both Miami games, he got the ball downhill at the right times. He did it again tonight in the fourth quarter when we needed it when they were really paying a lot of attention to Ty (and) when Buddy was having trouble shaking loose. He's just a terrific young player...He's a big part of our future. His versatility is just so valuable." -Carlisle on Nesmith
"It's fun. You know there's shots as a kid that you dream of just taking and making and hearing the whole crowd just going crazy. The workers, they can tell you I'm always in this gym every day. Good game, bad game, I'm always in the gym working. Every day I'm shooting I'm always thinking about making them shots like that. It was fun especially to feel that atmosphere and have them get so loud. And Aaron following up with a dunk was even (as) special, too." -Hield on his big three right after Haliburton's four-point play to seal the victory
Stat of the Night
The Pacers outscored Boston 37-23 in the third quarter to surge back ahead after entering halftime facing a seven-point deficit. They went 15-for-27 (55.6 percent) from the field and 6-for-12 from 3-point range while not committing a single turnover in the frame.
Haliburton scored or assisted on 24 of the first 27 points for Indiana in the frame.
Full Focus: Haliburton leads Pacers to In-Season Tournament Semifinals
- The Pacers are now 1-1 against the Celtics this season. Because of the added In-Season Tournament game, the two teams will meet five times in the regular season. Their next two games will come at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Jan. 6 and 8 before closing out the season series in Boston on Jan. 30.
- With four 3-pointers on Tuesday, Hield moved past Peja Stojakovic for 26th place in NBA history. Hield now has 1,762 threes in his career. Stojakovic finished his career with 1,760.
- Boston was without starting center Kristaps Porzingis on Monday due to a left calf strain. The 7-2 big man has missed four straight games with the injury, but is expected to return soon.
The Pacers will face either the Milwaukee Bucks or New York Knicks in Las Vegas in the In-Season Tournament Semifinal on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 5:00 PM ET.
The Pacers return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Dec. 18 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>