Jaylen Brown’s three rescue Celtics in Game 1 thriller against Pacers

BOSTON — The Celtics were almost buried.

The Indiana Pacers, big losers in these Eastern Conference finals, who were coming off a dramatic victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden to advance to this series 48 hours earlier, had the ball and were ahead by three to 10 seconds end. They only needed to score the ball and score a free throw to seal the victory.

But then Indiana threw the ball, giving the Celtics life. And after a spectacular inbounds pass from Jrue Holiday (one of his many spectacular moments en route to a 28-point, 7-rebound, 8-assist, 3-steal performance) to Jaylen Brown in the corner allowed Brown to get up. and he shot from 3, hitting the game-tying jumper with 5.7 seconds left.

The shot ultimately sent Boston on its way to an impressive 133-128 overtime victory to open this best-of-7 affair.

“It was a good momentum play where we were able to get a turnover,” said Brown, who finished with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in 44 minutes. “Jrue made a great pass. (Derrick) White set a great screen.

“And the rest is history.”

This was the definition of a great escape for Boston, which nearly fell to an inexplicable 15-15 at TD Garden over the last three postseasons before Brown’s game-saving shot and Indiana’s multiple inexplicable errors.

Boston was able to survive a game in which Jayson Tatum went 2 of 10 from the field in the fourth quarter and overtime before scoring what turned out to be the decisive baskets on consecutive possessions: an and-1. on TJ McConnell and a triple from the top of the key, to close the game. Tatum finished with 36 points and was a plus-20 on the night.

Additionally, Boston had several ugly turnovers late, including one by Brown and another by Tatum, while Indiana reveled in isolating center Al Horford on switches down the stretch. Both Pacers forward Pascal Siakam and guard Andrew Nembhard repeatedly hit clean mid-range jumpers that they knocked down, helping Indiana take a 5-point lead with 1:57 left in the fourth quarter.

At that point, Boston was in trouble, magnified because Tatum missed a pair of shots in the final 40 seconds.

“We always knew there’s always a chance,” Holiday said. “We’ve seen crazy things happen all the time. I don’t think we thought we lost the game until we actually lost the game. And that’s part of the reason we were so resilient toward the end of the game.

“Like I said, anything can happen. A couple of turnovers, a great shot, a great look from JB or on the other end, we made a couple more shots that were wide open and it could be a completely different game. So That’s just the “A team that will keep fighting no matter how long and what it costs” type.

After Boston opened the game on a 12-0 run, Indiana rallied from an early deficit and took its first lead to open the second half on five straight points from superstar guard Tyrese Haliburton. But a 26-8 run in response gave Boston a 13-point lead in the third quarter, the largest of the contest.

Indiana, however, didn’t play the role of 9.5-point underdog, repeatedly fighting its way back into the game thanks to 62.5 percent two-point shooting after setting a new NBA record for 2-point shooting percentage. field in a postseason game in their Game 7 victory over the Knicks on Sunday afternoon.

That statistic, in particular, was a reminder of the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, who missed his seventh straight game with a calf strain. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported before the game that Porzingis could return as early as Game 4 in Indianapolis on Memorial Day.

“Nothing more than I expected,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said when asked how he thought the game played out. “Two high-level teams competing for a great opportunity. So I hope every game is like that, and there will be more of that. And I thought both teams competed at a high level. For us, I thought our guys obviously weren’t perfect We can improve, but I thought we maintained a level of poise, a level of mental strength to continue working on some of the mistakes.

“That’s the predicament they put you in, the way they play. So we handled it well and we need to improve.”

The goal now for the Celtics is to find a way to do what they couldn’t in the first two rounds of these playoffs: get a win in Game 2 and dominate this series.

Even that front office feels very different after Boston managed to escape with the win in Game 1.

“Come in with the mentality of not relaxing,” Tatum said, when asked how he will approach Game 2 on Thursday. “Different circumstances. The first two rounds we won our Game 1 by a wide margin, so maybe human nature played into that. But tonight, being a close game, going into overtime, we certainly feel like we should have won. and we could have played.” better.

“I’m excited for us to come out and respond and protect the home court better than we’ve done recently.”