Pacers book trip to Las Vegas with 122-112 In-Season Tournament win over Boston
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Pacers seem to find another gear in the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament games.
The Blue and Gold stamped their ticket to Las Vegas with a 122-112 win over the Boston Celtics.
After trailing the Celtics by 7 at halftime, the Pacers used a huge 37-point third quarter to take command and put themselves in position to knock out one of the best teams in the entire league.
Indiana held the Celtics to just 23 points in that third frame.
The Pacers led the Celtics for the majority of the fourth quarter until Boston’s All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum hit a contested two-point shot to tie the game at 105 with less than two minutes to play.
Then Indiana found that extra gear.
The Pacers’ star point guard Tyrese Haliburton drained a three-pointer to retake the lead, getting fouled on the shot to set up a four-point play, which he converted.
Next, it was Haliburton assisting Buddy Hield on a triple to give the Pacers a 7-point lead with a minute left.
Hield finished with 21 points, hitting four three-pointers.
Add an emphatic Aaron Nesmith dunk to increase the Indiana lead to 9 and the win was secured for the Pacers.
Nesmith had 14 points, one of seven players in double figures for Indiana.
Pacers Head Coach Rick Carlisle said the game felt like a playoff atmosphere.
“Boston is a great team,” Carlisle said. “We stood toe-to-toe with them and we faced a lot of challenges throughout, and found a way to win. Really happy for the guys.”
As for Haliburton, the former Iowa State star has never recorded a triple-double in his entire NBA career.
Haliburton finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists, and his teammate Myles Turner had no doubt that Haliburton would produce with the game on the line.
One month ago, it was this same Boston team handed the Pacers their second-worst loss in team history with a 115-104 Celtics home win.
Haliburton missed that game with an injury, but his presence in the second matchup proved to be the difference.
The 16,000-plus fans in the raucous Gainbridge Fieldhouse were incredible throughout the game, as Pacers center Myles Turner pointed out.
“I haven’t seen the place like this in like, three or four years,” Turner said. “That was incredible. The energy in the building, [the fans] never really died down… I think the city is really starting to rally around this team.”
Carlisle echoed Turner’s sentiments after the game.
“Our crowd was amazing,” Carlisle said. “I certainly feel like the crowd and the energy had something to do with [Haliburton’s late-game heroics]… They were amazing all night long, hats off to them.”
Haliburton himself loved the support he got from the crowd as he hit the crucial three-pointer to give the Pacers the lead, with ‘MVP’ chants raining down throughout the conclusion of the game.
“[Boston has] two elite shot-makers, but I feel like I am an elite shot-maker as well,” Haliburton said. “From the minute I got here there has been a lot of love from this organization and this fanbase. It really means the world to me to have the opportunity to represent Indiana and represent this storied organization.
Meanwhile, Boston’s all-star duo combined for 62 points as Tatum had 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists while Jaylen Brown put up 30 points to go with his 9 rebounds.
The Pacers will head to Las Vegas for the In-Season Tournament semifinals on Thursday against the winner of the Bucks vs. Knicks game Tuesday night.
The Celtics will have a week off before their home game against Cleveland at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12.