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Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle Takes Responsibility for Game 1 Loss: 'This Loss is Totally on Me'

Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle Takes Responsibility for Game 1 Loss: 'This Loss is Totally on Me'illustration

Indiana Pacers , often recognized as one of the NBA's top in-game coaches, acknowledged a crucial mistake in the closing seconds of regulation that contributed to the Boston Celtics' 133-128 overtime victory against the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“This loss is totally on me,” admitted late Tuesday night.

With a 117-114 lead and possession of the ball, the Pacers turned it over on the in-bound pass. This misstep allowed Celtics guard Jaylen Brown to hit a corner 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds remaining, forcing overtime.

“With 10 seconds (left) in regulation, we should've just taken the timeout, advanced the ball, and found a way to get it in and made a free throw or two and ended the game,” Carlisle explained. “It didn't happen.”

Despite Carlisle's extensive experience as a championship coach, the Pacers' performance was marred by errors. Indiana committed 22 turnovers, resulting in 32 points for Boston. Notably, Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton lost the ball out of bounds with 27.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter while the Pacers were ahead by three points. Haliburton also turned the ball over in overtime, leading to a Jayson Tatum 3-pointer that put the Celtics up 127-123.

“We made mistakes, so that's an area we need to clean up,” Carlisle noted.

The decision not to foul Brown before his game-tying shot also came under scrutiny. Up three, the Pacers intended to foul, but Brown caught the ball ready to shoot, and forward Pascal Siakam chose not to risk fouling him and potentially giving up three free throws or a four-point play.

“He caught the ball and was face up, and Pascal decided to lay off which I understand was probably the right decision,” Carlisle said.

Siakam added, “As soon as I got to him – I was a little late because of the screen – he was going up so I didn't do it (foul). I was a little too late. If you have an opportunity to do it, you do it. I felt like he was going into his (shooting) motion. It was a tough shot. Maybe I could've contested it better. It was just a tough play.”

The image of Siakam with his hands behind his back as Brown launched the 3-pointer will linger with Indiana until Game 2.

“A lot of things had to go wrong for us and right for them. They did,” Carlisle said. “We've got to own it and we've got to get ready for Thursday.”

Despite the loss, the Pacers played well overall. They shot better from the field (53.5% to 47.5%) and from 3-point range (37.1% to 33.3%), outrebounded the Celtics, had more assists, and their bench outscored Boston's 30-13.

However, the turnovers and the missed opportunity to call a timeout proved costly. Such errors can significantly impact a game and potentially the series, especially for the sixth seed against the top-seeded team.

“We've been a tough-minded, resilient team the second half of the year,” Carlisle said, “and we've got to continue that.”

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