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Pacers coach Rick Carlisle vows vengeance vs. Celtics after Game 3 loss: ‘We are going after them’

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Pacers coach Rick Carlisle vows vengeance vs. Celtics after Game 3 loss: ‘We are going after them’


INDIANAPOLIS – With the Pacers trailing 3-0 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, thanks to two blown leads late in two games, Indiana coach Rick Carlisle vowed vengeance Saturday night.

“Believe me when I tell you, we are going after them,” Carlisle said about the Celtics, after Boston stole a 114-111 win from the Pacers in the closing seconds of Game 3.

Carlisle said the Pacers would “go at” or “after” Boston on at least three occasions, and added they would be “punching even harder” in Game 4, which is Monday here in Indianapolis.

No team in NBA history has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit, and the Pacers could easily be ahead 2-1 in this series if not for some serious late-game mistakes.

“We’re going to be undeterred,” he said. “We’re going to be back here Monday night, looking to extend the series, and we’re going to come at them even harder.”

Carlisle was delayed in getting to the podium at Gainbridge Fieldhouse after his team suffered a crushing defeat in which it led by as many as 18 points, and by eight with just 2:38 left, while his best player was out with a hamstring injury and one of his role players had the game of his life.

But that player, Andrew Nembhard, had the ball stolen from him by Jrue Holiday with 3.3 seconds left and the Pacers down by one. The steal occurred near the Pacers’ foul line and Nembhard ended up on the ground.

Carlisle was incensed, demanding a foul be called in real time and then while play was stopped to review a foul the Pacers took after the steal. He snapped, “I just rewatched the ending, so you don’t need to remind me — I saw everything that happened.”

Carlisle said “there were a lot of things out there I disagreed with, that I think any Indiana fan would disagree with,” in an apparent reference to the officiating.

A reporter started to follow up, and he interrupted, “everything, everything that happened.”

Holiday, who was listed as “questionable” to play due to a fever, but finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, and three steals, scored the last 5 points and picked Nembhard to secure the win. He said his steal was clean.

“I guess, from my perspective, I thought I beat him to the spot,” Holiday said. “If anything, we were chest to chest. And then the ball was out, it was just a little tap on his left hand. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I need to look at it again, but I didn’t really think there was that much contact. But everything happened so fast.”

A crucial turnover in the closing seconds of Game 1 cost the Pacers a chance to win in regulation, and they fell in overtime. In that game, Carlisle said he erred in not calling a timeout to advance the ball, which would have given his team better angles to inbound the ball, draw a foul, and win.

Carlisle could have called timeout with Nembhard racing up the floor against Holiday, but said he didn’t this time because “with 8 or 9 seconds left, and you’re in transition after a miss, I trust our players to be able to create a better shot than calling timeout and having them set their defense, run our end-of-game stuff on their video and show their players.

“It’s more of a play-basketball-type situation, and we’ve done well this year trusting our players.”

Nembhard scored a career-high 32 points — regular or postseason — with nine assists while his usual backcourt mate, Tyrese Haliburton, was out with a hamstring strain. T.J. McConnell scored 23 points off the bench, and Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner added 22 points apiece.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics 36 points, 10 rebounds, and no turnovers. Jaylen Brown scored 24 points and Al Horford added 23 points on 7 3s.

After Holiday converted two foul shots with 1.7 seconds left, Carlisle still had that timeout and used it to advance the ball for one last play. Nembhard was the inbounder and his four teammates all lined up in the backcourt like wide receivers on a football field, in spread formation. The play is designed to prevent the defense from fouling before a 3-point shot can be attempted, and it nearly worked.

Aaron Nesmith ran off a football-style pick and broke free into the corner, but his open 3-point try missed.

“I mean, we’ve had (the play) for a while … do you want me to just hand you our playbook,” Carlisle said. “It’s a play that was conceived by (Pacers assistant coach) Mike Weinar, who came up with it. We’ve used it a couple times over the last couple of years and gotten pretty good looks on it. If the same situation happens next game, we’ll use something a little bit different and hope we get the same kind of look.”

The Celtics trailed by 18 in the third quarter and closed the game on a 13-2 run. There is doubt that Haliburton, who was injured in Game 2, will be able to return from his hamstring strain on Monday.

“We got the best fans in the NBA here, we’ve got the greatest basketball building on the planet, and we’ve got another game in front of (Indiana fans) to go after these guys,” Carlisle said. “And believe me when I tell you we are going after them.”

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(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)



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