Los Angeles (AFP) – The Indiana Pacers, fueled by Tyrese Haliburton’s first career triple-double, beat the Boston Celtics 122-112 Monday to reach the semifinals of the NBA’s new in-season tournament.
The New Orleans Pelicans also booked their spot in Thursday’s semifinals in Las Vegas, shaking off a slow start to beat the Kings 127-117 in Sacramento.
In Indianapolis, Haliburton scored 26 points with 10 rebounds and 13 assists and the Pacers put together a 9-0 scoring run with less than two minutes remaining to take control of a tightly contested battle.
The Pacers, ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference regular-season standings, knocked out the East-leading Celtics and will face either the Milwaukee Bucks or New York Knicks in the semifinals.
The Bucks host the New York Knicks in the quarters on Tuesday and Haliburton said the Pacers will be ready for either one.
“We’re a young, hungry group and we want to win every night,” Haliburton said. “So we’re excited to be there, but we’re not complacent being there. We want to win.”
Buddy Hield added 21 points for the Pacers, who had seven players score in double figures to the delight of the 16,000-plus crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“The atmosphere is crazy,” Haliburton said of the playoff-type intensity in the arena, which was just what the NBA was looking for when it launched the in-season tournament hoping it would lend excitement to the early stages of a long season.
“I love this,” Haliburton said.
Jayson Tatum scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Jaylen Brown added 30 points and nine rebounds for Boston, who dominated inside in the first half but just couldn’t keep the prolific Pacers offense in check in the second.
Boston out-scored Indiana 32-14 in the paint and out-rebounded them 34-19 in the first half, leading 55-48 at the break.
The Pacers turned the tables in the second half. Haliburton, held to seven points in the first half, scored eight in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said 18 turnovers — six of them in the third quarter when the Pacers briefly pushed their lead to 11 — doomed the Celtics.
“When you turn the ball over you just let them get out in transition,” he said.
Even so, a game that featured 16 lead changes was all tied up at 105-105 with 1:33 to play when Indiana delivered the final blow.
Ingram powers Pelicans
Haliburton drew a foul on a step-back three-pointer and converted the free throw to give the Pacers the lead for good.
Hield drilled a three-pointer and Aaron Nesmith threw down a dunk before the Celtics could respond and the Pacers held on.
In Sacramento, the Kings led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter, but the Pelicans clawed back to lead 69-61 at halftime and never trailed in the second half as they handed the Kings their first defeat of the tournament.
Pels star Zion Williamson had a relatively quiet night with 10 points, but Brandon Ingram scored 30 and Herbert Jones added 23 as six New Orleans players scored in double figures.
De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 30 points. Domantas Sabonis notched a triple-double of 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for Sacramento, who had won all four of their group-stage games.
The Pelicans will play the winner of Tuesday’s quarter-final between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns.
The title game is on Saturday in Vegas — where the finalists will be competing for the first NBA Cup and the $500,000 in prize money per player for the winning team.