Erica Denhoff/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BOSTON — How much one believes in the existence of leprechauns could be proportional to how much onlookers near the very end of regulation of Tuesday night’s Game 1 actually believed the Boston Celtics would somehow avoid defeat. But the mythical, mystical sprites long associated with being the invisible hand guiding many great Celtics teams to victories at the old Boston Garden made their presence felt in one of the biggest ways since moving inside the walls of TD Garden for one of the most improbable playoff victories in the history of the Celtics franchise.

That is, if you believe in such folklore about leprechauns.

That is, if you believe the scoreboard reading “Celtics 133, Pacers 128, Final” is actually true. (Spoiler: It is!)

The Celtics moved one step closer to the pot of gold that would be the franchise’s 18th NBA championship in thrilling fashion, as Jaylen Brown knocked down a three-pointer from deep in the left corner with 5.7 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, where Boston eventually outclassed the Indiana Pacers 133-128 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Jayson Tatum took over after the miraculous shot from his “Jay” partner, scoring 10 of his game-high 36 points in overtime to allow the Celtics to snatch victory from the jaws of what would have been a gut-wrenching defeat.

“Welcome to the NBA playoffs. You’ve just got to manage your emotions. Anything can happen,” Brown said. “It’s not over until the final buzzer sounds. … It’s not over until it’s over. We found a way to win the game at the very end.”

To be frank, the game was all but over. Indiana, playing in its third game in five days in three different cities after winning Games 6 & 7 against the New York Knicks last weekend, held a three-point lead with just over 10 seconds to go after forcing Derrick White and Tatum to miss shots with the Pacers were up 117-114. After the Celtics used their foul to give, Andrew Nembhard’s inbounds pass went off the hands of Pascal Siakam and out of bounds along the baseline in the backcourt to give Boston one last chance.

That chance turned into Jrue Holiday rocketing an inbounds pass to Brown in the corner, who then rose over the tight defense of Pascal Siakam soon after making the catch and swishing home the game-tying three that sent Boston Garden’s successor into raptures. And, if you believe in this stuff, Brown’s clutch shot also woke up the ghost of Johnny Most, the Celtics radio announcer of yesteryear whose gravelly voice is the soundtrack of many of Boston’s great playoff victories — some of the improbable variety — and almost surely rung in the ears of many fans across New England. Well, at least those old enough to remember those games (or old enough to have ever owned a radio).



Stealing from part of Most’s call of the Larry Bird steal and assist at the end of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons, Brown’s shot made people believe that TD Garden was going crazy. The opposite of pandemonium was what was needed so the Celtics on the floor could execute in a clutch situation that they have rarely found themselves in during their playoff run so far.

Tyrese Haliburton scored a team-high 25 points, but committed a crucial turnover in overtime (one of 22 giveaways by the Pacers) that spelled doom for Indiana. (Erica Denhoff/ALOST)

“I think we always knew that there’s always a chance. We’ve seen crazy stuff happen all the time,” said Holiday, who scored a season-high 28 points. “I don’t think that we think we lost the game until we actually lost the game and that’s part of the reason why we were so resilient.”

The resiliency the Pacers showed tonight was also there to see, getting back into the game after the Celtics scored the first 12 points and, after getting back to level terms at halftime on a logo three from Tyrese Haliburton right before the first-half buzzer, storming back from a 13-point third-quarter deficit that they faced late in the third quarter. All it took for Indiana to complete a smash and grab of a victory was a successful inbounds pass, or possibly calling the one timeout it had available before the fateful turnover to move the ball into the frontcourt while holding that three-point lead before it all went south.

“This loss is totally on me. With 10 seconds in regulation, we should have just taken the time out, advanced the ball, and found a way to get it in and made a free throw or two and ended the game,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. “But it didn’t happen. We made some other mistakes, but our guys just need to concentrate on fighting the way they fought in this game from start to finish, and we’ll be back Thursday.”

The Pacers’ turnovers, 22 in all, blighted a valiant effort to steal home-court advantage. Haliburton led the Pacers with 25 points and added 10 assists, while Siakam (24 points, 10 rebounds) and Myles Turner (23 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles. All five starters scored in double figures, while the Pacers’ bench, led by Obi Toppin’s 15 points and T.J. McConnell’s 13, outscored Boston’s 30-13.

After setting an NBA playoff single-game record for field goal percentage (75.1 percent) in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, the Pacers shot 53.5 percent against a Celtics team that was second in the NBA in defensive rating in the regular season.

“It’s unfortunate we did so many good things in this game [and] that it came down to a couple of mistakes in the end,” Carlisle said. “But this is the NBA Playoffs, and we’ve got to learn from it and we got to bounce back.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Tuesday evening’s game, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Erica Denhoff. After clicking on a photo to enlarge the picture, press the left and right arrow buttons on either side of the caption to scroll through the rest of the pictures that appear on the first page, Also, click on the numbers and/or arrow appearing immediately below the picture grid to load the next set of photos. There are 60 pictures in total.

Facebook Comments Box
Tags : Boston CelticsIndiana PacersNational Basketball AssociationNBA Playoffs

Leave a Response