Home Sports Celtics-Pacers takeaways: Tatum leads thrilling comeback win in Game 3

Celtics-Pacers takeaways: Tatum leads thrilling comeback win in Game 3

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Celtics-Pacers Takeaways: Tatum leads exciting comeback in Game 3 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics are one win away from the NBA Finals after a thrilling comeback win over the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

After going up nine points early, Boston struggled defensively and found themselves trailing by 18 points during a woeful second quarter. Indiana shot an astonishing 63.6 percent from the field in the first half, including 69.4 percent on 3-pointers.

In the second half the story was different. The C’s held the Pacers to 18 of 47 (38.3 percent) shooting in the second half and reduced their deficit. They finally regained the lead late in the fourth quarter, and Jrue Holiday preserved it with a key steal in the final seconds of the game:

That play sealed a 114-111 victory to give Boston a 3-0 series lead.

The Celtics remain undefeated on the road (5-0) in the 2024 playoffs. This was the Pacers’ first loss at home in this postseason (7-1).

Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 36 points for Boston. All five C’s starters scored in double figures, including Jaylen Brown (24 points) and Al Horford (23 points).

Andrew Nembhard replaced Injured Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton and dropped a team-high 32 points in a losing effort. Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner added 22 each.

The Celtics will look to complete the sweep and advance to the NBA Finals on Monday. Kickoff of Game 4 is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET in Indiana, and coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics pregame live right here on NBC Sports Boston.

Here are three takeaways from Boston’s Game 3 win.

Great night of recovery for Jayson Tatum

Tatum’s critics have been loud throughout this postseason, but they were silenced Saturday night.

The five-time All-Star was the best player on the court in Game 3. He wasted little time in making his presence felt, dropping 15 points in the first quarter, the second most in a quarter in his playoff career, after from his 16-point game in Game 4 against Cleveland. He finished the first half with 20 points and an efficient 8 of 14 shooting.

Tatum kept his foot on the gas in the second half, finishing with 36 points, including this decisive three-pointer late in the fourth quarter:

His stellar stat line – 36 points (12-23 FG, 5-10 3-PT), 10 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, one steal and no turnovers – was historic. He now has five career playoff games with at least 35 points and 10 rebounds, putting him second in Celtics history behind the legendary Larry Bird (10).

Tatum also became the first player in NBA history to score 36 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and five 3-pointers without a turnover. according to StatMuse.

Al Horford shoots with lights out

As good as Tatum was, the Celtics don’t win Game 3 without Horford.

While Derrick White and Jrue Holiday struggled offensively, the veteran big stepped up and had one of his standout nights from beyond the arc. He went a ridiculous 7-of-12 from deep and finished with 23 points in 34 minutes.

Horford’s biggest 3-pointers of the game came late in the fourth quarter. His shot cut the difference to two points with just over a minute left:

Horford also had five rebounds, three blocks and a steal. The 37-year-old is the oldest player in NBA history to make seven 3-pointers in a playoff game.

Tale of two halves for the C defense

The Celtics were without two of their top frontcourt options in Game 3 — Kristaps Porzingis (calf) and Luke Kornet (wrist) — and it showed during the first half.

Indiana was relentless in the paint against Horford and the rest of Boston’s short lineup. All of the home team’s 31 points in the first quarter came from the paint or the free throw line.

That trend continued in the second quarter. The Pacers finished the first half going 21 of 30 from the paint for 42 points, just two shy of the NBA playoff high set by Dallas in Game 1 against Minnesota.

Then, a switch flipped.

Indiana shot just 38.3 percent from the field in the second half, scoring just 42 points in the final two frames after scoring 69 in the first half.

The Celtics defense locked down late, and Holiday’s late steal perfectly capped the turnaround on that end of the floor. Therefore, Boston will have the opportunity to punch its ticket to the Finals on Monday night.

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