Boston Celtics

Haliburton makes confident statement after Game 1 loss to Celtics

"We know we can play with these guys."

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The Indiana Pacers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night at TD Garden. They had a three-point lead and possession with eight seconds remaining in regulation but committed a brutal turnover on an inbound pass and allowed Jaylen Brown to hit a game-tying corner 3-pointer before blowing another lead in overtime en route to a 133-128 defeat.

You could argue this was the Pacers' best chance to beat a heavily-favored Celtics team, and that after squandering such a golden opportunity, their hopes of winning this series are all but lost.

Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton views Tuesday night's result in a very different light, however.

"We know we can play with these guys,” Haliburton said after the game. “We know we belong."

If you're a Pacers optimist, you might note that Indiana committed a postseason-high 21 turnovers, gave Boston 30 free throw attempts (compared to 10 of its own) and still was one inbound pass away from beating the best team in basketball. Despite their mistakes, the Pacers matched the Celtics blow-for-blow on their own floor, shooting 53.5 percent and racking up 38 assists on 53 made field goals.

"I think it’s discouraging just because of the plays that that happened down the stretch. We feel like we were in position to win the game and just didn’t win the game," Haliburton added. “But what I will say is encouraging is, we have been trash in Game 1s. First series and second series (of these playoffs).

"And today we played great for about 47 minutes, just didn’t didn’t sustain it for 48. So, we’ll go back, watch the film. There will be good, there will be bad. And we’ll learn from it, and we will be a lot better in Game 2."

The Celtics cruised to gentleman's sweeps over the depleted Heat and Cavaliers in Rounds 1 and 2, respectively, but Tuesday was their reminder that Indiana is significantly better than both Miami and Cleveland, particularly on the offensive end. And to Haliburton's point, the Pacers dropped Game 1 in each of their previous two series against the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks before rallying to advance.

Put simply, Haliburton and his teammates are unafraid of the big stage and fully believe they can win Thursday's Game 2 if they cut down on their miscues. The Celtics will need to play their best basketball of the postseason to date to prove the Pacers wrong.

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