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Celtics-Pacers takeaways: Pacers persevere after Halibuton's injury

Celtics-Pacers takeaways: Pacers persevere after Halibuton's injury originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Three Key Storylines

The Indiana Pacers avoided a sweep on their home floor as they took down the Boston Celtics in a Monday night thriller.

Unlike Saturday's wire-to-wire Celtics win, Monday's rematch at Gainbridge Fieldhouse was a back-and-forth thriller that featured 26 lead changes and 15 ties. Boston began to pull away with an 11-point lead toward the end of the first half, but Indiana erased that deficit during a third quarter in which it scored a whopping 44 points.

The tightly-contested fourth quarter had no shortage of drama. Celtics star Jaylen Brown appeared to draw a foul on Buddy Hield with 3.2 seconds remaining and the game tied. However, the officials overturned the foul call after the Pacers challenged the play. The replay seemed to make it clear that Hield hit Brown on the head before getting the ball.

The game appeared headed to overtime when Pacers wing Bennedict Mathurin missed what would have been the game-winner, but the refs called a foul on C's big Kristaps Porzingis as time expired. Mathurin hit two of his three free throws to seal a 133-131 Pacers victory.

With Jayson Tatum (left ankle sprain management) sidelined, Brown shined for the Celtics with a season-high 40 points in the losing effort. Jrue Holiday tied his season-high with 21 points. All five C's starters scored in double figures for the 15th time this season.

Pacers All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton exited in the second quarter with a left hamstring strain. Without him, Mathurin (26 points) and Aaron Nesmith (17 points) led the way in the scoring column for Indiana.

The Celtics will return home to host the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. First, here are three takeaways from Monday's wild matchup.

Pacers persevere after Tyrese Haliburton's injury

The Pacers appeared deflated after watching Haliburton, their breakout star, go down with a scary leg injury in the second quarter. The 23-year-old slipped while driving to the basket and was in serious pain as he held his left hamstring.

Haliburton was carried off the court and into the locker room by his teammates with a towel over his head.

At halftime, the Pacers ruled Haliburton out for the rest of the game with a left hamstring strain. That perhaps is the best-case scenario considering how the injury looked, but it was bad news for an Indiana team that hoped to avoid a two-game sweep at the hands of Boston on its home court.

After a brief stint of sluggish play to end the first half, the Pacers rediscovered their fire in the third quarter. They dropped 44 points in the frame to erase the Celtics' 11-point lead.

Indiana was virtually unstoppable offensively throughout the second half even without their primary scorer and distributor. It notched 74 points in the final two frames to escape with an impressive, hard-fought victory.

Jaylen Brown stars without Jayson Tatum

After tallying 31 points in Saturday's win, Brown picked up where he left off with an outstanding performance on Monday.

The two-time All-Star picked up the slack with Tatum sidelined. He immediately took over with 12 first-quarter points, making his first four shots of the game. His 25 first-half points marked a career-high.

Brown's entered with 36 points as his season-high. He eclipsed that mark in three quarters and finished with 40 on an efficient 17-of-26 shooting.

Unfortunately for Brown and the C's, it was a less-than-ideal end to an otherwise excellent performance. Brown appeared to draw a foul on Pacers guard Buddy Hield with 3.2 seconds remaining, but the call was overturned. That swung the momentum in Indiana's favor and ultimately led to Boston's demise.

"I think he obviously hit me in the head," Brown told reporters after the game. "I think we definitely need to do some investigation, that's all I'm gonna say. I think that was the obvious one. Like, I've never heard of head part of the ball.

"Doesn't make any sense to me and I asked him, I went up and asked, 'Did I get hit in the head?' He looks me straight in the face and he says, 'No, you didn't get hit in the head.' and I'm like, OK. And then you come down and make on the other end -- Like, that costs our team a game and you expect us not to be frustrated."

A rivalry brewing?

This game felt like a playoff matchup well before the wild, controversial ending.

There was chippiness throughout, starting with Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard exchanging pleasantries with Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla and the C's bench on multiple occasions. Things escalated a bit when Indiana big man Isaiah Jackson shoved Celtics 7-footer Luke Kornet.

Kornet hilariously ignored Jackson's shove and high-fived his Celtics teammates before stepping to the free-throw line.

Later, two fans sitting directly behind the Celtics bench were escorted out of the arena by security. They appeared to engage in an entertaining back-and-forth with C's assistant coaches Sam Cassell and Charles Lee, who motioned for the fans to be kicked out of the game.

Those events, combined with the entertaining basketball that has been played between these two teams this season, have given this matchup somewhat of a rivalry feel. We could see more fireworks when the Celtics and Pacers meet for the fifth time this season on Jan. 30 at TD Garden.