Celtics vs. Pacers score, takeaways: Boston takes Game 1 of East finals after Jaylen Brown forces OT

The Boston Celtics escaped with a 133-128 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the 2024 Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night. Jaylen Brown hit a game-tying 3-pointer with six seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and the top-seeded Celtics held on in the extra period to get the series-opening win. 

The Pacers, who entered the game as 9.5-point underdogs, were well positioned to get a surprising win. However, they turned the ball over twice in the final 30 seconds of regulation and Tyrese Haliburton's game-winning attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was off the mark.

Haliburton led Indiana with 25 points and 10 assists in the loss and hit buzzer-beating 3-pointers to end both the second and third quarters. Seven different Pacers players scored at least 12 points.

Jrue Holiday had 28 points -- his highest total of this playoff run -- to go with eight assists and seven rebounds. He hit half of his eight 3-point attempts.

Here are three takeaways from Boston's Game 1 win. 

Pacers burned for not fouling up 3

One play doesn't decide a game, or so every coach on the planet will tell you, but we just cannot talk about anything in this game until we talk about the Pacers not fouling Boston with a 3-point lead and less than 10 seconds to play. Instead, they allowed Jaylen Brown to catch in the corner and raise up for the tying 3. 

Now, both Rick Carlisle and Tyrese Haliburton said the intent was to foul, but with the way Brown caught the pass already faced up to the basket with the threat of pulling the trigger immediately, Pascal Siakam made the quick and correct decision to not risk fouling on a 3-point attempt. 

That's true. Once Brown caught the ball in that position, Siakam would've been playing with fire reaching in for a quick hack. The problem was Brown catching the ball in that position in the first place, which was only possible because Siakam was trailing so far behind off the misdirection screening action that Boston ran. 

Indiana's entire defensive alignment and subsequent execution should've been devoted to nothing except guarding the 3-point line. Matchups don't matter. Anything inside the arc doesn't matter. Watch the 3-point clip again and you will see T.J. McConnell, initially defending Derrick White, in perfect position to switch out to Brown as Siakam is tangled up. If McConnell switches he can beat Brown to the spot and either thwart a pass altogether or be in position to foul immediately on the catch. 

But McConnell stuck with White, forcing Siakam to chase Brown from a step behind, and by the time he arrived it was too much of a bang-bang situation to make contact. 

"As soon as I got to him, I was a little late because of the screen, he was going up so I didn't want to do it," Siakam told reporters of the decision not to foul. "When I thought I was going to do it, it was a little too late… it was just a judgment call. I felt like he was going through the motion, he had a pump fake. I didn't want to foul then. And it was a tough shot, I was in front of him. Maybe I could have contested it better but it was just a tough play."

It was a tough shot. Give Brown credit for knocking it down. But these guys are pros. They make great shots look routine all the time. You just cannot give them the opportunity if you have any way to avoid it. The Pacers had a way. Now, I don't know if Carlisle instructed his guys not to switch or if McConnell just made a bad read, but either way, that's where the mistake happened. And it cost the Pacers big time.

Turnovers haunt Indiana

Indiana followed an almost perfect blueprint to win this game: Play fast as hell, keep shooting the lights out (53% and 37% from 3), hope for a down, or at least mediocre, 3-point night from the Celtics (33%), and win the bench battle (30-13) The one and only thing the Pacers did wrong was turn the ball over 21 times, which led to 32 Boston points, the most points off turnovers the Celtics have been gifted this entire season. 

And 11-point turnover margin is too much when you're already trying to pull an upset, and it was really bad when it mattered most as Indiana committed five turnovers against just two made baskets over the final five minutes and thirty seconds of the fourth quarter. 

It was very fitting that the game started with an Indiana turnover leading to a Jaylen Brown dunk. 

Then to bookend things, Haliburton dribbled the ball off his knee with a 3-point lead and under 30 seconds to play in regulation. 

Then with 10 seconds left, and the Pacers still holding a 3-point lead, Andrew Nembhard couldn't get the ball inbounds and the deflection was deemed off Siakam. Celtics ball. If the Pacers simply get the ball in safely there and go make a couple free throws, or even one free throw, the game is probably over. Instead, Brown got the shot for the tie, and he didn't miss. 

"This loss is totally on me," Rick Carlisle said. "With 10 seconds in regulation, we should have just taken the timeout, advance the ball and found a way to get it in and made a free throw or two and ended the game."

It's true, advancing the ball would've given the Pacers more room to operate. That low sideline inbound spot can be tricky. But you still have to make a basic inbound pass or, if you're Nembhard, call a timeout yourself if nothing is materializing. Hindsight is 20/20. 

Boston balance

Jayson Tatum led Boston's starters with 36 points while Derrick White and Al Horford were the low men with 15 each. In between, Jrue Holiday had 28 and Jaylen Brown had 26. Holiday hit four 3s. White and Horford hit three each. 

Holiday was particularly awesome on both ends. He created his own 3s, got to the basket and found his way to open space off the ball for easy buckets. White led the Celtics with nine assists and had one of the best defensive plays you'll see from a guard when he peeled back from out of nowhere to break up a lob pass. White also secured a game-swinging offensive rebound with the Celtics down two and a minute to play, leading to Tatum bucket to tie the game. Then he delivered the dime for the Tatum 3 that sealed it. 

Boston has All-Stars all over, and it's that cumulative firepower that gets you over time. And to think, Kristaps Porzingis isn't even back yet. 

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FINAL SCORE: Celtics 133, Pacers 128 (OT)

*Boston leads series 1-0

Jayson Tatum: 34 points, 12 rebounds

Jrue Holiday: 28 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4-of-8 from 3

Jaylen Brown: 26 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists

Tyrese Haliburton: 25 points, 10 assists, six 3 pointers

Pascal Siakam: 24 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists

Myles Turner: 23 points, 10 rebounds

May 22, 2024, 3:03 AM
May. 21, 2024, 11:03 pm EDT
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We're headed for Overtime!

Unbelievable. The Pacers turn it over on an inbounds pass then elect not to foul, instead allowing Jaylen Brown to get up a corner 3, which he hits to tie the game and Haliburton is unable to answer on the other end. Wow. 

May 22, 2024, 2:40 AM
May. 21, 2024, 10:40 pm EDT
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T.J. McConnell is at it again

McConnell has gone from a Rudy Ruettiger scrapper to a bonfide big-time difference maker and he's doing it again with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting with four assists while taking total control of the pace. He's on the attack constantly, and Boston has no match for his energy right now. 

May 22, 2024, 2:12 AM
May. 21, 2024, 10:12 pm EDT
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Haliburton does it again

After ending the second quarter on a logo 3, Haliburton banks in a double-clutch 3 from the left wing as the Pacers have ponce again erased a 12-point deficit to pull within one at 94-93 heading into the fourth. 

May 22, 2024, 2:02 AM
May. 21, 2024, 10:02 pm EDT
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This gotta become a Celtics meme

May 22, 2024, 1:54 AM
May. 21, 2024, 9:54 pm EDT
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Celtics starting to stretch lead again

Boston came out fast to the start the game and they've come out fast to start the second half as they've turned a tie game at halftime into a 12-point lead with under five to go in the third. 

May 22, 2024, 1:48 AM
May. 21, 2024, 9:48 pm EDT
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Turnovers killing Pacers right now

It sounds weird to say the Pacers are allowing the Celtics to hang around, but that's exactly what it feels like. Boston is up eight halfway through the third and it feels almost entirely due to Indiana's 13 TOs. 

May 22, 2024, 1:41 AM
May. 21, 2024, 9:41 pm EDT
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Pacers shooting the lights out

May 22, 2024, 1:17 AM
May. 21, 2024, 9:17 pm EDT
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1H SCORE: Pacers 64, Celtics 64

Tyrese Haliburton bangs a logo 3 to end the half as Indiana plays Boston even through the first 24 minutes. Pacers are playing super fast and keeping up with Boston from behind the 3-point line (8-7 in Boston's favor). Perfect blueprint to pull a Game 1 upset. 

  • Myles Turner: 18 points, 7-of-10 shooting
  • Tyrese Haliburton: 11 points, 4 assists, 3-of-5 from 3
  • Obi Toppin: 11 points, 5-of-6 shooting
  • Jaylen Brown: 14 points, 7-of-12 shooting
  • Jayson Tatum: 11 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds
  • Derrick White: 10 points, 4 assists
  • Al Horford: 9 points, 1-of-7 from 3
May 22, 2024, 1:16 AM
May. 21, 2024, 9:16 pm EDT
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Pacers have the rhythm right now

Celtics are in the mud a little bit and the Pacers, even in the half court, are playing with great tempo and dictating downhill leverage. Indiana weathered that early storm and has been super impressive in outplaying Boston since. 

May 22, 2024, 1:09 AM
May. 21, 2024, 9:09 pm EDT
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Myles Turner is cooking

Turner's over/under scoring total for the game was 17.5. He has cleared that with 18 barely halfway through the second quarter. Pacers hanging tough thanks to Turner and a big bench boost. 

May 22, 2024, 1:01 AM
May. 21, 2024, 9:01 pm EDT
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1Q SCORE: Celtics 34, Pacers 31

What a rally by the Pacers after falling behind 12-0 to start the game. Obi Toppin has been huge with 11 points as Indiana's bench, which outscored Boston's reserves 15-3 in the first, righted the ship over the latter half of the quarter. 

May 22, 2024, 12:41 AM
May. 21, 2024, 8:41 pm EDT
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Jays off to hot start

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have combined for 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting in the first quarter. Tatum in particular has not shot well in these playoffs. Good sign for Boston. 

May 22, 2024, 12:37 AM
May. 21, 2024, 8:37 pm EDT
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Boston avalanche to start

The Celtics are out to a 12-0 lead to start Game 1 and the Pacers better get themselves settled before it's an Apollo Creed situation. 

May 22, 2024, 12:23 AM
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"It takes what it takes" 🎥

The Celtics released this 19-minute video on Tuesday. It starts with Paul Pierce getting Boston fans ready for another trip to the Eastern Conference finals. The video features different interviews with coaches and players -- past and present -- as they look back on the Celtics' recent run to the playoffs.

May 21, 2024, 11:10 PM
May. 21, 2024, 7:10 pm EDT
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"This ain't a surprise for us" 🎥

The Pacers dropped this hype video on Tuesday to get their fans fired up for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Indiana is a significant underdog heading into Boston but from the looks of this video, the players don't seem to mind one bit. 

May 21, 2024, 11:01 PM
May. 21, 2024, 7:01 pm EDT