Haliburton, Pacers put on show, beat Celtics to advance to Vegas

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers: Quarterfinals - 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament
Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers: Quarterfinals - 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament

That is why the Indiana Pacers have been a League Pass favorite all season.

And this is what the NBA's In-Season Tournament is supposed to be all about.

The Indiana Pacers have been the most entertaining and overlooked team in the NBA this season, and when they finally got on national television in a quarterfinal knockout game against the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton went off for a triple-double — 26 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds — to spark a strong second half from Indiana and a 122-112 win over the Celtics that has the Pacers headed to Las Vegas for the tournament semi-finals.

This game was everything the NBA could have hoped for in an In-Season Tournament knockout game.

There was a fired-up crowd in Indiana that hasn't had much to cheer for in recent years, and they treated this like a playoff game.

The players also treated this like a playoff game — it was more physical and more intense than the usual early December Monday night regular season game.

The Celtics were trying to isolate and attack Haliburton on defense, and he was digging down and finding enough to help get stops in the second half when the Pacers needed it.

Boston did what it wanted in the first half, controlling the pace and getting the ball inside to use its size advantage (despite Kristaps Porzingis being out with a calf injury). Indiana struggled in the first half in the paint, shooting 4-of-11 in the restricted area to open the game, and Boston was +20 in the paint battle by halftime. The Celtics really started to take advantage of their size going on a 14-3 run late in the second quarter and led 55-48 at the half, with Tatum and Brown each scoring 12 before the break.

In the third quarter, the Pacers came out with real energy and got the pace back up, and that's when the game turned. Indiana went on a 17-3 run in the third, and when things were tight late they just kept making plays.

The concerns about Boston's offense in the clutch from the past couple of seasons remain (even the year they went to the Finals). The Celtics' half-court offense is one action followed by a Brown or Tatum isolation — that works when the jumpers and kick-out 3-pointers are falling, but they don't get the rim and don't get enough easy baskets. A couple minutes of a slump and Boston finds itself in trouble. That happened Monday.

Buddy Hield had 21 points for the Pacers, while Myles Turner had a strong game with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Tatum had 32 for the Celtics, Brown 30, but as a team Boston shot just 12-of-41 from 3 (29.3%) and that doomed their offense.

Indiana now heads to Las Vegas for the In-Season Tournament semi-finals against the winner of the Knicks vs. Bucks (Tuesday). Boston heads home and will face the loser of that game.