Celtics vs. Pacers Game 3 NBA Best Bet: Indiana Doesn’t Need Haliburton

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Pascal Siakam #43 of the Indiana Pacers drives past Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 23, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

Top-rated sportsbooks have released their NBA odds for Game 3 between the Celtics and Pacers. For your best bets, I will recommend investing in the Pacers.

For more of our betting analysis, check out:

NBA Pick: Pacers +7.5 (-108) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Pacers +7.5 (-108)
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Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers

Saturday, May 25, 2024 – 08:30 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse

Tyrese Haliburton’s Injury

Boston is more heavily favored than it normally would be, because Indiana’s star point guard, Tyrese Haliburton, is injured.

After reaggravating his hamstring injury, failing to play through this injury in the second half of Game 2 and reportedly limping to the team bus after the game, Haliburton is listed as ‘questionable’ for tonight’s game. If Haliburton does play, so much the better: we’d be getting free points from oddsmakers.

However, my primary point is that the Pacers are just fine without him. I do recognize that Haliburton is a very good player. But one of my main points is to apply the rally angle. When a star player goes down, his teammates tend to step up to make up for his absence.

T.J. McConnell

Haliburton’s backup is T.J. McConnell. McConnell will therefore be the main player to see an increase in minutes in Haliburton’s absence.

More minutes for McConnell is a good thing: analysts recognized this most vociferously when they heavily criticized Indiana’s head coach for benching him at the end of Game 2 in the last round against the Knicks. McConnell showed then, as he’s shown many times before, that he can lead his team in the postseason.

He has excellent handles, partly as a result of his smaller size, that allow him to be efficient inside the arc. Moreover, he does a great job of generating assists, as his postseason stats indicate.

On defense, he is a characteristically pesky on-ball defender, as evident in the ability he showed to limit Jalen Brunson’s field goal efficiency in the last round, whereas Haliburton struggled when guarding Brunson.

If you look strictly at the point guard position, then it is true on paper that, with McConnell, you might get slightly worse offense than with Haliburton – because Haliburton can shoot the three more efficiently – but you get better defense. As I will discuss, the rally angle will, in reality, more than make up for the slightly diminished offensive potential that might exist on paper.

Pacers’ Depth

When playing without Haliburton, Indiana is much better this year than it was last year, as evident in its improved win record.

The Pacers remain dangerous without Haliburton because of their scoring depth. Pascal Siakam is key here. He is the go-to guy whose effectiveness in the post and in the mid-range make him reliable when the shot clock is running low.

Especially without their top rim protector, the Celtics are struggling to defend him: Siakam scored 24 points in Game 1 and 28 in Game 2.

Indiana has several guys who are capable of scoring in double digits, including the big-time shot-taker Andrew Nembhard, who is efficient from deep; the floor-spacer center Myles Turner, who also shoots well from deep; Siakam’s backup Obi Toppin, whose outlook improves with Boston’s backup rim protector Luke Kornet injured; and Aaron Nesmith or Ben Sheppard could come up with another good shooting performance.

Conclusion About Haliburton’s Offense

As evident in, for example, Game 2 against Milwaukee, Haliburton is often a passive observer, and yet Indiana remains fine without him.

To say that Indiana’s offense might take a small step back in Haliburton’s offense requires assuming the best version of Haliburton who is aggressive and efficient from deep, and it requires forgetting both the rally angle and Indiana’s depth of scoring. Plus, we get more of McConnell’s pesky defense.

Indiana at Home

Indiana is 6-0 at home partly because its defense steps up with greater energy and stronger overall play in its home venue. The Pacers held the Knicks to as few as 89 points.

Boston’s offense has, throughout the postseason, relied disproportionately on three-point shooting. Its outlook declines on the road because its three-point conversion rate drops by almost three percent on the road relative to its conversion rate at home.

Bonus Consideration

Boston reliably loses focus in one game in a given series. In Rounds 1 and 2, the Celtics had their low-focus game after their first double-digit win in a given series.

Up 2-0, with Haliburton injured, and coming off a double-digit win, Boston is in a bad spot psychologically.


Even with a focused Boston team, we are essentially getting free points in Haliburton’s absence. Indiana is a deep-scoring team, effective both in the half-court and in transition, that is well-built to maximize the rally angle. McConnell’s uptick in minutes plus home court will also help Indiana’s defense.

I find that the spread is rather absurd, for the above reasons. While the world might be ready to count out Indiana, the Pacers are a tough team: in the last round, they came back from 0-2 and 2-3 series deficits. In Game 1 of this series, they nearly won despite being blown out to start the game.

Especially with them at home, you can’t count them out.

NBA Pick: Pacers +7.5 (-108) at BetOnline

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Pacers +7.5 (-108)
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