The Indiana Pacers are the clear underdogs in the Boston Celtics series but for most of Game 1, they did not look the part. The Pacers traded blows and exchanged leads with the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference – and in the entire NBA going into the postseason. When the Celtics got to an early 12-0 lead in the series opener, fans were already typing away their eulogies for Indiana on social media only to get Frozen Cold Taked later on as Indiana fought back and made it a competitive game that only the minority thought it would become. 

Even when they secured a spot in the Eastern Conference finals, the Pacers remained doubted. A big reason for that was the perception that they lucked into playing banged-up teams seeded higher than them during the first two rounds of the postseason. There is a degree of truth to that since they had to square off against a Milwaukee Bucks side that had Thanasis Antetokounmpo and MarJon Beauchamp playing more minutes than Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round. Damian Lillard also missed two games and Khris Middleton battled through a lower-body injury.

In the second round, they outlasted a New York Knicks team that had a roster that looked as though it had gone through a war. Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic, OG Anunoby, Josh Hart, and Jalen Brunson all landed in different spots inside the injury spectrum. That was a busy series for the Knicks injury bulletin keeper. Could the Pacers have won the Bucks and/or the Knicks series if both opponents rolled out a healthy roster?

At any rate, the Pacers proved in Game 1 against the Celtics that they can keep up against a sort of healthy powerhouse. Boston still missed Kristapos Porzingis but the Celtics did not lack star power with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Jrue Holiday all there to combat the Pacers. If it wasn’t for their poor ball security (21 turnovers that translated into 32 Boston points) and one regretful decision, it would have likely been the Pacers taking a 1-0 lead into Game 2.

“This loss is totally on me,” Carlisle told reporters after the game (h/t The Athletic). “With 10 seconds to go in regulation, we should have just taken the timeout, advanced the ball, found a way to get it in, made a free throw or two, and ended the game. But, it didn’t happen.”

The Pacers are not playing for moral victories in the playoffs. They’re big-game hunting, so their Game 1 loss stings. Game 2 could be a much different story. But at the very least, they did not get their souls crushed in a 20-point loss in the first meeting.