Game 3 over Pacers: How Jrue Holiday’s last-minute steal sealed Celtics comeback in 4 takeaways

By Eric Nehm, James Boyd, Jay King, Jared Weiss, and Mark Pulio

The Boston Celtics erased an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes and came back to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-111 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

With this win, the Celtics took the series 3-0. No team has ever won a series from a 3-0 deficit.

Jayson Tatum was the main reason for Boston’s efforts throughout the night, finishing with 36 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. His most important dime was a laser shot behind cornerback Al Horford, who buried a 3 to cut the lead to two points with just over a minute to play. The 36-year-old Horford finished with 23 points, five rebounds and three blocks in his seventh game.

However, the Pacers had one last chance to hit the game-winner when Tatum missed a layup with less than 10 seconds to play. Until Juror Holliday eliminated Andrew Nembhardt.

With 38 seconds to play, Holiday hit the go-ahead free throw, picked Nembard cleanly in the pocket and drew a foul on the other end to seal the win. Holiday finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and a game-high three steals.

Nembhard played for Indiana in the absence of Pacers All-NBA guard Tyrese Halliburton, scoring 32 points and dishing out nine assists.

Game 4 is Monday in Indiana.

What Raised Boston?

For much of this game, the Pacers seemed to steal the Celtics’ identity as they searched for answers without Halliburton. They were spamming post mismatches every time the Celtics switched to guard Myles Turner or Pascal Siakam. All of the Celtics’ defensive guards, Holiday and Derrick White, were on fire everywhere.

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But Boston steadily clawed its way back to within 3 seconds all night. Then, White and Holiday made big defensive plays to steal the win and most likely the series.

With Halliburton likely to miss an elimination Game 4, the Celtics are in great position to advance to the NBA Finals. That’s not surprising at all. This game showed that Boston’s high-volume 3-pointer approach can overwhelm hot shooting teams and that Celtics defenders can defend those types of games. With their opposition’s best player going down, the route through the East is clear for them. But they face great trials anyway and pass well. — Jared Weiss wins over Celtics writers

TJ McConnell, Pacers bench not good enough to pull off upset

Giving up is not in DJ McConnell’s DNA.

Undrafted out of Arizona in 2015, the Pacers backup point guard is having the best season of his career, and it continued when Indiana needed him the most. Despite Halliburton being sidelined, Indiana coach Rick Carlisle made the right call Saturday by bringing McConnell off the bench.

The veteran provided his usual spark with timely buckets and stops, all of which fired up the crowd. After an obscene foul on Harbord and knocked to the ground midway through the third quarter, McConnell got back up and looked at the sea of ​​Pacers fans in front of him as if to say, “Bring it on.”

McConnell’s valiant effort sparked a sloppy bench performance for the Pacers. Indiana’s reserves outscored Boston’s 31-4, led by McConnell’s 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 29 minutes. He scored seven points in the fourth quarter.

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Needless to say, Indiana’s season ended after falling into an 0-3 hole, and no team in NBA history has ever come back. — James Boyd, Indiana author

The Celtics need to sharpen up

Without Halliburton, the Pacers played with their usual freedom. However, they got a new mindset, especially since all of their other guards hunted their offense inside the arc. Halliburton usually shoots 3-pointers. Nembhardt, McConnell and Siakam did their jobs very close to the bucket. The Pacers didn’t make the top 3 until midway through the second quarter, but dominated the Celtics defense by owning the paint.

Boston gave up 42 points in the paint during the first half, a huge number. The most the Celtics surrendered in the regular season was 70. Interestingly, it came early November for the Pacers missing Halliburton. Boston still won that game 155-104, but had a much tougher time Saturday night.

Turner made six shots in the first half, all in the paint. Nembhardt, McConnell and Siakam combined for 14 for 20. It took the Celtics until the third quarter to find the intensity they needed.

They still won. They staged a major comeback. But if they win one more game to end the series, they will need to be very sharp in the coming finals. They cannot get away with such a subpar effort as they have now in their three series so far. The Celtics need to tighten it up moving forward, but they made enough plays to steal this one on the road. The holiday, playing through an illness, was incredibly late. — Jay King wins over Celtics writers

The pacers’ best efforts are not enough

Without Halliburton, the Pacers will need to put together their best team effort of the postseason, and they brought that effort Saturday, but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics overcame a 12-point halftime deficit and stole Game 3 to hand the Pacers. Their first loss at Cainbridge Fieldhouse this postseason. Now, the Pacers have their backs against the wall in Game 4 on Monday in Indianapolis.

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The fast bowlers started playing with intensity. They led 69-57 at halftime after scoring 42 points on 21-of-30 shooting from the lane. After struggling to figure out how to get to dangerous spots on the floor against the Celtics in their first two games, the Pacers kept it simple and put their bigs closer to the rim. But the Celtics pulled away with blocked shots and steals in the second half and outscored the Pacers 48-27 over the final 18 minutes of the game.

The Pacers had four players — McConnell, Nembhardt, Siakam, Turner — score 20-plus points Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough. — Eric Nehm, NBA writer

Required reading

(Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images)

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