Pacers perform well, but miss injured star Tyrese Haliburton late in Game 3 loss to the Celtics

Updated May. 26, 2024 1:07 a.m. ET

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tyrese Haliburton desperately wanted to help his teammates fight their way back into the Eastern Conference finals.

Others within the organization decided that he couldn’t, forcing Haliburton to sit out Game 3 against Boston on Saturday night.

The absence of Indiana’s All-NBA guard and clear-cut team leader because of an injured left hamstring was obvious in the second half, when the Pacers struggled to stay under control in a 114-111 loss to the Celtics, leaving them in a 3-0 deficit and on the brink of elimination for the third time in these playoffs.

Haliburton did what he could from the bench while dressed in glasses and a gold sweater, pumping his fist and encouraging his teammates, who certainly did their part.


Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell made big shot after big shot. Myles Turner helped Indiana dominate the post and control the glass. Pascal Siakam provided another strong option and together they helped Indiana build an 18-point lead against the team with the most wins in the NBA this season.

Had a couple of bounces, or perhaps calls, gone another way, the Pacers might still be perfect at home this postseason. Instead, they’re 6-1.

“Our thing all year has been just to play at the level and bring everything you can and they did that,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “There were a lot of things out there I disagreed with, like any Indiana fan would disagree with, but we’re going to be undeterred. We’re going to be back Monday night looking to extend the series.”

No NBA team has ever won one from the deficit the Pacers now face.

If Haliburton wasn’t well enough to play in Game 3, the prevailing thought was that one more off day may not be of much benefit. And if the concern was a potentially more serious injury, would the Pacers take that risk in another win or go home scenario?

The Pacers already exceeded expectations this season by ending a three-year playoff drought, a franchise-record 10-game playoff losing streak, and a decade-long quest to advance to the second round. They surprised many by reaching their first conference finals since 2014.

And while Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard also tried to construct a roster capable of succeeding if and when Haliburton went down because of an injury, Carlisle made one thing clear Saturday night.

Indiana isn’t backing down Monday in Game 4 — with or without Haliburton in uniform.

“We’ve just got to look at what’s in front of us,” Carlisle said. “We have the best fans in the NBA here. We’ve got the greatest basketball building on the planet. And we’ve got another in front of us to go after these guys and, believe me, we are going to go after them.”