NBA Playoffs: Celtics come back in Indiana, look to punch ticket to Finals

Boston defeated the Indiana Pacers 114-111 on Saturday. No franchise has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in history.

With 36 points from Jayson Tatum, the Boston Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers 114-111 on Saturday in a final comeback that practically sealed their victory in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics, the best team in the regular season, now have a 3-0 lead against the Pacers who are without their star, Tyrese Haliburton, due to injury.

No franchise has come back from 3-0 down in the history of the NBA playoffs.

The Celtics could settle the sweep in Game 4 on Monday, which will also be played in Indianapolis.

On Saturday, the Pacers dominated practically the entire game, with leads of up to 18 points, with a commendable collective effort led by guard Andrew Nembhard (32 points and 9 assists) and backup point guard T.J. McConnell (23 points and 9 rebounds).

But Tatum and veteran Dominican center Al Horford, who had 23 points and 7 3-pointers, allowed Boston to accelerate down the stretch.

The Celtics, who were down by 8 points (109-101) with two and a half minutes remaining, took the lead just 38 seconds after three-pointers from Tatum and Horford and a basket and additional free throw from Jrue Holiday.

Holiday himself ended the hopes of the Pacers crowd with a decisive steal of the ball from Nembhard with only three seconds left.

"No lead is safe in the NBA no more. … We always believe we got a chance to win," Tatum stressed.

The talented forward is on the cusp of his second NBA Finals at the age of 26, after the 2022 loss to the Golden State Warriors, but he still sent a message to his teammates to avoid overconfidence.

"Closeout games are the hardest," he warned.

It is very hard

Indiana, which was undefeated in its previous six playoff games at home, came out determined to defend its home court despite the significant loss of Haliburton, who aggravated a hamstring injury in the second game of the series.

Nembhard assumed the role of floor general, while Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner, both with 22 points, dominated the paint to compensate for the Pacers' poor shooting.

Indiana made 5 of 22 3-point attempts (22.7%) while the Celtics made 16 of 46 (34.8%).

Five of those three-pointers were made by Tatum and 7 by Horford, a career playoff high.

"It's definitely very tough. We had a lot of energy. Guys came out defending well, running well. In that fourth quarter, we didn’t have enough," lamented Siakam.

If on Monday the Celtics can win their sixth straight road game, they will advance to their 23rd NBA Finals and will have the chance to break the tie of 17 championships they hold with the Lakers.

The representative of the West in the Finals will be the winner in the series between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks, who currently lead 2-0.