Celtics slap down Pacers – and doubters

All those Hoosiers, resplendent in their yellow t-shirts and giddy with hope, must have been wholly stunned when their Little Team that Might ultimately couldn’t.

The ghosts of Gene Hackman’s Hickory Huskers were not in the building.

The good people of Indiana could focus on the Indy 500. Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals would, at best, delay the inevitable.

Saturday night’s Celtics’ 114-111 win silenced talking heads (aka analysts) who were prepared to dip into their bag of bromides. They’d have suggested that this Celtics team really isn’t ready for coronation. It would have reignited the cry that their impending championship should be discounted considering the low hurdles they stepped over to win it.

Watching Boston lengthen their series lead to 3-0, Indiana fans might humbly disagree. The Pacers didn’t give anything away; it was taken from them.

Late in the first half, their Pacers led the Celtics by 18 points.

The spread dropped to 12 by halftime and ballooned back to 18 halfway through the third quarter. It persistently toed the line making it a projected blowout, thus causing millions of nationwide viewers to begin channel surfing.

In the fourth quarter the Celtics chipped away. Jayson Tatum, whose ability to overcome pressure has been denigrated, began initiating scoring opportunities for others. His behind-the-back bounce pass to Al Horford, resulting in the old man of the C’s drilling a corner 3 that cut Indiana’s lead to 111-109 with 1:12 left.

That play will rightly stand as the highlight of the NBA playoffs.

Jrue Holiday’s contribution to the big play collection wasn’t nearly as pretty but just as urgent.

Sports accountants, in their bloodless pursuit of statistical veracity, will linger on Holiday’s numbers for less than a blink. Someone ending the night with 14 points, hitting five of 16 shots from the floor, could hardly have had more than a minor impact on the final count.

Nothing to see here, move on to the next line.

But when Holiday stepped into Andrew Nembhard’s shadow to steal the ball, and Indiana’s last, best chance to snatch victory from the jaws of a total collapse, his presence was duly noted.

The eyes often see more than the numbers can reveal.