If you were one of those people that thought the Boston Celtics would cruise through their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Indiana Pacers, then you’re just like a lot of us. I thought that the Pacers were pretenders who lucked their way into the third round, and they arguably still did after facing decimated squads from the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks. 

Well, even if they’re still overmatched in talent, the Pacers certainly showed that they’re not going to just give up against a team that beat them by 51 points in their first regular season matchup. In fact, the Pacers were 2-3 against Boston this season.

It took some serious heroics from Jaylen Brown for the Celtics to even get to overtime. With 8.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Brown first forced Pascal Siakam to turn the ball over, then hit his first career game-tying shot in a fourth quarter in a masterfully-drawn play from Celtics coach Joe Mazulla. It was a hell of a shot that landed with six seconds left on the clock – where he contorted his body as Siakam desperately tried to avoid fouling him. 

Brown also made a layup to bring the Celtics to within one point, and then made the most important defensive play of the game as he stole the ball from Siakam again after a Pacers timeout to preserve their four-point lead. His two-way impact was felt across the game as he finished with 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block.

Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 36 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals, but struggled in the fourth quarter which helped the Pacers get back into the game. He’ll be thanking Brown in private for the big plays in the fourth quarter and overtime. Jrue Holiday also had a fantastic game for Boston with 28 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

All-in-all, that was probably the best Game 1 that the NBA could have hoped for between these two teams. Instead of a blowout, fans were treated to a spectacular overtime game that will be watched on replay for years to come. The Pacers also showed that they won’t go down quietly, which will draw more interest from casual observers.

The Celtics still got what they needed with a victory, but this could be far from easy. I can’t wait for Game 2.