By Tommy Matthews

The Pacers were up by 5 with 1:43 left in regulation on the road, and they were still up 3 with 10 seconds to go when they botched an inbounds play, giving Boston one more chance to tie the game.

The Pacers didn’t foul and Jalen Brown didn’t miss.

In overtime, Jayson Tatum took over scoring 10 points, both hitting 3s and getting into the paint and drawing fouls.

Boston came from behind — but it feels more like an escape — and got the win, 133-128 in OT.

The Celtics lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 in Boston on Thursday.

That is going to feel like an exceedingly long 48 hours for the Pacers.

“This loss is totally on me,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “With 10 seconds in regulation, we should have just taken the timeout, advance the ball and found a way to get it in and made a free throw or two and ended the game.”

Boston players sounded like they were exhaling more than celebrating.

“Would you be?” Brown said. “We almost dropped a game on our home floor. We need to come out and be better in Game 2.”

“We keep talking about protecting homecourt. And it’s whatever it takes,” Al Horford said.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.

It started out pretty. The Celtics race out to 12-0 lead after the opening tip — including a successful Boston challenge — and early on the Celtics were getting whatever they wanted against the Pacers defense.


Myles Turner was hot and scored 18 points in the first half, Tyrese Haliburton hit three 3-pointers, Obi Toppin had a spark with 11 off the bench, and the game was tied at 64-64 at the half.

In the second half, Boston did better in stretches to play north and south, but Indiana was in its groove. At the end of the game, they attacked Al Horford relentlessly, dragging him into every pick-and-roll then isolating against him.

Haliburton finished the game with 25 points and 10 assists, Pascal Siakam had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Turner had 23 points and 10 boards. Obi Toppin had a strong game off the bench with 15 points. The Pacers had a plan stuck to it.

Indiana did everything it needed to except execute with the lead in the clutch.

Boston did.

Tatum finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds, Brown had 26, and Jrue Holiday had a strong game with 28 points and eight assists.

Game 2 will be as much a mental test for the Pacers as a physical one. Can the Pacers bounce back after losing one they should have put in the win column?

Indiana made one thing clear — this is a series. This will not be a walk in the park for Boston.

“I expect all the games to be like that,” Joe Mazzulla said.

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