BOSTON -- The Celtics will not be heading to Las Vegas for a shot at the first-ever NBA Cup. Boston lost to the Pacers in Indiana, 122-112, in the quarterfinals of the NBA's In-Season Tournament on Monday night thanks to a late surge by Tyrese Haliburton and company.
Haliburton didn't play when the Celtics demolished the Pacers by 50 points in Boston last month, and he made a huge impact Monday night. The Pacers star point guard logged his first career triple-double with 26 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds. He hit a three while being fouled by Jaylen Brown to start a 10-0 run by the Pacers in the final minutes, and heard "MVP" chants throughout his performance.
The first-ever quarterfinal game in the NBA In-Season Tournament was a thrilling affair with a playoff feel throughout. Both teams really wanted to go to Vegas, as there were 16 lead changes and 15 ties throughout.
The Celtics came out on the short end despite getting 32 points from Jayson Tatum and 30 from Jaylen Brown. But Boston struggled from downtown, hitting just 12 of their 41 threes, with Tatum and Brown going a combined 4-for-15 from behind the arc.
After a pretty even first 18 minutes, the Celtics ripped off a 12-0 run late in the second quarter, capped off by a deep Tatum three to give Boston a nine-point advantage. Tatum had 12 points in the first half, and the Celtics led by seven at the break.
Defense was the name of the game as Boston held Indy's high-powered offense to just 48 points in the first half. But then the Celtics' third-quarter woes came back to haunt them.
The Celtics took their foot off the gas and the Pacers exploded on the offensive end out of the half. The Pacers put up 37 in the third, outscoring the Celtics by 14 points while shooting 56 percent in the quarter.
A 7-0 run gave the Pacers a 75-71 lead, and after Sam Hauser hit a three for Boston, Indy embarked on a 10-0 run to build an 11-point edge. Buddy Hield accounted for half of that run, with his dunk off a Brown turnover giving the Pacers an 85-74 advantage.
But it wouldn't be an In-Season Tournament quarterfinal game without a little fourth-quarter drama. The Celtics evened the score midway through the frame thanks to a 7-0 run, with Brown draining a three off an Al Horford offensive rebound to square things up at 94-94.
The two teams continued to trade punches over the next five minutes, but Haliburton delivered a huge blow when he drained a three and was fouled by Brown with 1:33 left. His four-point play put the Pacers on top 109-105, and the C's were never able to recover.
Hield scored 21 for Indiana, while former Celtic Aaron Nesmith terrorized his old team with some solid defense on Tatum and 14 points off the bench. Nesmith scored 11 of his points in the fourth, and he even hit Derrick White with a "too small" after a go-ahead layup with 2:21 to play.
The Celtics had success in the paint early on, but abandoned that for their long-range attack. Boston forced too many threes in the second half, which let the Pacers pick up their pace on offense. The Celtics' backcourt really struggled from deep, with White and Jrue Holiday a combined 3-for-14 on their 3-point attempts. Payton Pritchard went scoreless on the night, missing all four of his threes. The Celtics are now 2-5 when shooting under 32 percent from downtown.
The defense dried up in the second half too, as Boston forced just six turnovers on the night. They were careless on the other end too, coughing up the ball 18 times. Ten of those turnovers came in the second half, including six in the third quarter.
That is just way too many possessions gifted to the best offense in the NBA.
So instead of heading to Las Vegas for a shot at the first-ever NBA Cup, the Celtics will now head back to Boston for a regular season game on Friday night. They'll host the loser of Tuesday night's Knicks-Bucks quarterfinals game, while the Pacers will play the winner Thursday night for a trip to Saturday night's NBA Cup Final.
It's a disappointing end to the first In-Season Tournament for the Celtics, who are now 15-5 on the season.
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