Jayson Tatum was “mad” at missing out on a trip to Las Vegas as the Boston Celtics saw their in-season tournament hopes ended by a surprise 122-112 defeat to the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
Having entered their quarterfinal matchup with the NBA’s best record at 15-4, the Celtics were viewed by many as favourites to win the inaugural in-season tournament.
They looked likely to advance to this week’s semifinals in Vegas until Tyrese Haliburton took charge in the third quarter for Indiana, registering his first career triple-double and scoring 16 of his 26 points in the second half.
A huge four-point play from Haliburton with one minute and 33 seconds remaining capped his terrific display and brought chants of “MVP” from the Indiana crowd, as Tatum’s own 32-point performance was made redundant.
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Speaking after the Celtics’ first defeat in four games, Tatum said: “I wanted to go to Vegas. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to go Vegas, so yeah, I’m mad. Next year, I guess.”
The four-time All-Star acknowledged, however, that there was little Boston could have done to stop Haliburton in the second half.
“We’ve got to just be more connected defensively, but, I mean, it’s the NBA. Sometimes guys are going to make plays. He hit some tough shots. So it’s kind of twofold,” Tatum added.
“Guys get paid a lot of money to play basketball, and they’re pretty good.”
Final Score pic.twitter.com/Fg49N6zAin
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 5, 2023
Center Myles Turner, Indiana’s longest-serving player who has been with the franchise since 2015, was in awe of Haliburton’s performance as he soaked up the atmosphere at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“The story, the backstory of it all makes it, you know, the most special,” Turner said. “The fact that he [Haliburton] got his opportunity and he was able to take it and run with it…
“I mean, it’s just dope to see this franchise [go from] where I started to what it’s becoming and what it potentially can become.
“It’s goes back to the atmosphere. I haven’t heard MVP chants, maybe when [Victor] Oladipo was here, but Ty’s really come in and taken over and it’s fun stuff.”
Indiana will now head to Vegas for the semifinals of the inaugural in-season tournament, facing either the New York Knicks or the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 5, 2023