Three Key Storylines
- Third-quarter woes continue
- Haliburton puts on a show
- 3-pointers make the difference
The Boston Celtics will not make the trip to Las Vegas for the NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals.
It will be the Indiana Pacers advancing to the next round after defeating the C's in Monday's thrilling matchup at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The back-and-forth affair included 16 lead changes. Boston took a seven-point lead into the half, but Indiana responded with a dominant third quarter and held off the Celtics' late run to earn a 122-112 victory.
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Tyrese Haliburton (26 points) and Buddy Hield (21 points) led the way for the Pacers while ex-Celtic Aaron Nesmith (14 points) played a key role off the bench. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown notched 32 and 30 points respectively for Boston in the losing effort.
The Pacers will take on the winner of Tuesday night's New York Knicks-Milwaukee Bucks game in the semifinals on Thursday. As for the Celtics, they'll host the loser of that matchup on Friday.
Here are our takeaways from Monday's loss.
Third-quarter woes strike again
The Celtics defense kept the Pacers' high-powered offense in check during the first half. They held the top-ranked offense in the NBA to 22 points on 32 percent shooting in the first quarter. The effort continued in the second as the Pacers entered the half with 48 points on 35.6 percent shooting, their second-lowest scoring output and second-worst field goal percentage in a first half so far this season.
In what has become a troubling trend for these Celtics, the wheels fell off in the third quarter.
The Pacers quickly erased their seven-point halftime deficit and took an 11-point lead. They outscored Boston 37-23 in the frame and stayed hot with 37 points again in the fourth.
The C's entered Monday's matchup as the lowest-scoring team in the league in third quarters (25.4 points). This time around, their third-quarter struggles were a major momentum killer after they closed the first half on a 12-0 run.
If the Celtics are going to live up to expectations as the NBA championship favorite, they need to fix whatever it ailing them in the third quarter. It's been the one glaring issue during what otherwise has been a strong start to the season.
Tyrese Haliburton is the real deal
A big reason for the Celtics' third-quarter woes? Tyrese Haliburton.
After a relatively quiet first half, Haliburton dropped 12 points in the third quarter to propel the Pacers' comeback. The All-Star guard led all players in the third in points, assists (five) and rebounds (four). He scored or assisted on all 20 of the Pacers' points in the first six minutes of the frame.
Haliburton wasn't done there. He tallied seven more points in the fourth quarter, including this dagger four-point play with 1:33 left in the game:
Haliburton finished with 26 points (10-18 FG), 13 assists, and 10 rebounds for the first triple-double of his career. He's the real deal, and the Celtics found that out the hard way on Monday night.
Threes make the difference
Head coach Joe Mazzulla and the Celtics have been criticized for living and dying by the 3-pointer. On Monday, they died by the three.
Boston's 3-point struggles were summed up by the first half, in which Sam Hauser (3-for-4) matched the rest of the team (3-for-19) from beyond the arc. Hauser ended up with five of the Celtics' 12 3-point makes (12-41, 29.3 percent) on the night.
Meanwhile, the Pacers were scorching hot from 3-point range. They shot 47.5 percent from 3 (19-40) with Haliburton, Hield, and Bennedict Mathurin combining for 13 of their makes from deep.
The 3-point discrepancy, along with the turnover difference (17 for Celtics, six for Pacers), ultimately cost the Celtics a trip to Las Vegas.