Boston Celtics roar back to push Indiana Pacers to brink of elimination

Boston Celtics roar back to push Indiana Pacers to brink of elimination

INDIANA – Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum warned his team not to take the foot off the gas, despite having a commanding 3-0 lead in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference Finals.

On May 25, fueled by 36 points from the forward, the Celtics erased an 18-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-111 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Tatum added 10 rebounds and eight assists, Jaylen Brown scored 24 points and Al Horford made seven three-pointers on the way to 23 points.

Boston found a way to slow down Indiana’s high-octane offence in the second half to snatch the win on the road, where they will try to close out the series on May 27.

“Closeout games are the hardest,” Tatum said, cautioning that the Celtics cannot afford to relax despite the fact that no NBA team have rallied from 3-0 down to win a play-off series.

But Pacers coach Rick Carlisle certainly was not ready to wave the white flag.

“We’re going to be undeterred, we’re going to be back here Monday night looking to extend the series and we’re going to come at them even harder,” he vowed.

Indiana, who were unbeaten in six prior home games this post-season, came out determined to avoid the 3-0 hole despite the absence of injured All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton.

Andrew Nembhard, taking over at point guard, scored 32 points and handed out nine assists while Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner scored 22 apiece for the Pacers, who pushed their lead to 18 in the second quarter and also in the third.

But a three-point play by Jrue Holiday, who was fouled on a driving layup and made the free throw, put the Celtics up 112-111 with 38.9 seconds to play.

It was their first lead since the first moments of the second quarter and they made it stand up, Holiday coming up with a decisive steal from Nembhard and making a pair of free throws to seal it.

“I just saw the opportunity,” he said. “I think Siakam was on his heels so I just attacked him and got the and-one.”

It remains to be seen if Haliburton will be available for Game 4. “It was determined that tonight was not an option,” Carlisle said before his team’s Game 3 loss.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said the absence of Haliburton had left Boston struggling to adjust to early on.

“It took us a little while to figure out how we were going to match up with them in order to slow them down,” he said.

“I felt like it was our defence, and I thought we took it to another level in the second half.” AFP

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