Dribbles: Pacers Cough Up Sure Thing, Fumble Away Game 1 To Celtics In OT

Random dribbles following the Indiana Pacers’ 133-128 road loss to the Boston Celtics in overtime in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday. …Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics, Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam, Indiana Pacers, NBA

1. Boy, Indiana really blew it. How else can you describe a game like this, where it felt like the Pacers had it won? Then, somehow, they lost it.

2. With 8.5 seconds left in regulation, the Pacers had a 3-point lead — and the ball. All they needed to do was get it inbounds, draw a foul, and make a single free throw. 

3. Well, it never got that far. Guard Andrew Nembhard did get the ball in bounds, sort of. But his pass went right off forward Pascal Siakam and right back out of bounds.

4. Celtics ball.

5. Three seconds later, All-Star Jaylen Brown buried a 3-pointer. Tie game. Unbelievable.

6. Do you foul there if you’re Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, to keep anyone from hitting a three? Man, I don’t really know. Hard to say. It’s easy to second-guess now. And it was an incredibly difficult shot by Brown from the corner. It just went in.

7. Anyway, the bottom line in this game was Indiana’s 21 turnovers. It wasn’t just the one on that fateful inbounds play (though that was truly the killer). The Pacers also committed several others late and in the OT that greatly assisted Boston’s win.

8. Carlisle took the blame for the oh-so-painful outcome. “This loss is totally on me,” he told reporters. “With 10 seconds in regulation, we should’ve just taken the timeout, advanced the ball, found a way to get it in, made a free throw or two, and ended the game.”

9. That seems like the logical thing, but everything went wrong for the Pacers and everything right for the Celtics.

10. A more experienced team likely would have put this game away. But Brown, Jayson Tatum and the Celtics were also in the East finals last season. The Pacers weren’t even in the playoffs.

11. Sadly, the Pacers really did play a very good all-around game. They just couldn’t finish. Siakam was dynamite with 24 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Tyrese Haliburton went for 25 points and 10 assists. Myles Turner finished with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 10 boards.

12. But the turnovers, oh the turnovers. Nesmith had five. Turner had four, Halburton and Obi Toppin three apiece.

13. That’s a big reason why Haliburton refused to let Carlisle take the blame. “There were three different occasions when I dribbled the ball off my foot today,” Haliburton told reporters.

14. Turner added that the miscues were a sign of the Pacers “showing their age,” via Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star.

15. Indiana shot 53.5 percent from the field and 37 percent on threes. That’s compared to 47.5 percent and 33 percent, respectively, for Boston. Again, coughing up the ball at critical moments and a couple of defensive lapses were the difference.

16. Tatum erupted for 36 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Celtics. Jrue Holiday, who won a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks a few years back, was excellent with 28 points. Brown scored 26.

17. So what now for the Pacers? Can they possibly play this well in Game 2, also in Boston? “We made mistakes. That’s an area we have to clean up,” Carlisle said, and if they do, then maybe they can steal one on the road yet.

18. Let’s not forget that the Pacers were down 2-0 to the New York Knicks last series — but took care of business at home and came out with all guns a-blazin’ to knock off the Knicks in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

19. They will battle. They will play with an edge. They will believe they can get this done. Now all they need to do is take care of the ball.

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