SI:AM | Pacers Blew a Golden Opportunity in Boston

Sloppy play down the stretch doomed Indiana in Game 1.
Indiana’s Game 1 overtime loss showed Boston will have its hands full in the series.
Indiana’s Game 1 overtime loss showed Boston will have its hands full in the series. / Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m not sure if Jaylen Brown’s game-tying shot deserved the double “bang” from Mike Breen.

In today’s SI:AM:

☘️ Celtics seize Game 1
⛹️‍♀️ The WNBA’s oldest rookie
🏈 NFL draft prospects to watch

This one hurts

The Indiana Pacers have been repeatedly overlooked this postseason. The narrative surrounding their wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks focused much more on the failings of their more high-profile opponents than on whether Indiana was capable of making a deep run. So when the Pacers took the lead late in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the conference finals against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, it looked like it might finally be time to start talking about whether this was a team with legitimate title aspirations.

And then the Pacers blew it.

With 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Andrew Nembhard made a nice step-back jumper over Al Horford that extended Indiana’s lead to 117–114. It was the last good play the Pacers made on offense.

The collapse began when Tyrese Haliburton denied the Pacers a chance to add to their lead with an inexplicable turnover with 27 seconds left where he just lost his dribble while bringing the ball up the court.

The Celtics failed to capitalize on their ensuing possession, but don’t worry—the Pacers gave them another chance. With 10 seconds left in regulation, an Indiana inbounds pass glanced off the hands of Pascal Siakam and out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Celtics for another chance to tie the game.

That set the stage for an unforgettable shot from Jaylen Brown, who tied the game with an off-balance three from the corner. Haliburton failed to get a clean look at a potential game-winner and the game went to overtime.

After such a disheartening conclusion to regulation, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the Pacers played terribly in the overtime period. They hit just two of their eight field goal attempts and turned the ball over three times—including twice on back-to-back possessions in the final minute. The Celtics went on to win, 133–128.

“This loss is totally on me,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after the game. “With 10 seconds in regulation, we should’ve just taken the timeout, advanced the ball, found a way to get it in, made a free throw or two, and ended the game. It didn’t happen.”

Losing any game in the playoffs is tough to swallow, but blowing a game on the road against the top team in the conference is especially brutal for the Pacers. Going up 1–0 and immediately seizing home-court advantage would have completely changed the tenor of the series. And Indiana played really well for the first 47 minutes of the game, especially during an 18–4 run in the late third quarter and early fourth quarter in which it fought back from a 13-point deficit to take the lead. The Pacers had contributions from up and down their roster. Myles Turner had 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Obi Tobbin and T.J. McConnell provided an offensive spark off the bench. Pascal Siakam had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter to help build the lead they eventually squandered.

Game 1 suggested that this series may be more evenly matched than the two teams’ regular-season records might indicate. But after missing a golden opportunity to draw first blood, it’ll be that much harder for the Pacers to win the series.

Oct 28, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders scrambles vs. UCLA .
Shedeur Sanders is expected to be a first round pick in next year’s NFL draft. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The best of Sports Illustrated

The top five…

… things I saw last night:

5. The Celtics fans who left the game early and had to watch the rest of the game through the windows of a sports bar.
4. Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s aggressive baserunning to score from second on a bunt
3. Cameron Brink’s two game-winning blocks.
2. Tyrese Haliburton’s 35-footer to beat the first-half buzzer and his off-balance three to beat the third-quarter buzzer.
1. Oneil Cruz’s absurd punishment of the baseball. He became the first player in the Statcast era (since 2015) to have three base hits with exit velocities of at least 115 mph. Not only that, he had the two hardest hit balls of the whole season—in the same game.

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Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).