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Celtics edge Pacers in OT to draw first blood in NBA East finals

MANILA, Philippines, May 23 ------ The Boston Celtics fended off the gritty Indiana Pacers to take Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in overtime, 133-128, at the TD Garden Wednesday (Manila time). The Celtics blew a 13-point lead in the second half but regained their composure late in the fourth quarter and overtime to go up 1-0.

Jayson Tatum led Boston with 36 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals. He scored 10 points in overtime to power the league’s top regular season team to the victory. With Indiana ahead by just two, 123-121, in overtime following three free throws by Tyrese Haliburton, Tatum took over. The sweet-shooting forward first sank an and-one play to help the Celtics go up by one, 124-123.

After a Haliburton turnover on the other end, Boston once again went to Tatum, who faked a shot and side-stepped his way to a clean look from way beyond for the 127-123 cushion. After another turnover by Indiana, a cutting layup by Derrick White pushed the advantage to six, 129-123. A mini 5-2 run by the Pacers kept them in the game, 131-128, but Tatum iced the game with a pair of free throws with 8.6 seconds remaining.

With the game going down the wire, 114-115, with less than a minute to go in regulation with a pair of free throws by Jaylen Brown, Andrew Nembhard sank a big step-back midrange jumper over the outstretched arms of Al Horford.

Tatum missed a wide-open triple that would have tied the game, but the Pacers committed a big turnover on the other end to give Boston another opportunity. White and Tatum then missed their chances as Indiana took the possession. However, another turnover on the inbound pass gave the Celtics a shot at to tie the game, with Brown capitalizing by sinking a corner trey with Siakam right on his jersey to tie the game up at 117 with 5.7 seconds left.

In the next play, Tatum locked down Haliburton to bring the game to overtime, setting up the cardiac finish. “Indiana, they play so fast. They put pressure on you. We gotta be better going forward but we give credit to Indiana, they play so fast, we have to be able to keep up,” Brown said after the game. “We just made some momentum plays. JT finally woke up, made some baskets… We gotta be better to be honest, but we’ll take the win tonight.”

Jrue Holiday backstopped the Celtics' top performer with 28 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals, while Brown had 26. Seven Pacers finished in double digits, led by Haliburton with 25 points, 10 assists and three rebounds. Pascal Siakam provided 24 markers, 12 boards and seven dimes. Myles Turner aided Indiana with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Game 2 is on Friday morning (Manila time) at the same venue.



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