Jrue Holiday steals the ball – and win – from the Pacers as Celtics come back to take commanding 3-0 series lead in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals

John Havlicek, ML Carr, Gerald Henderson, Larry Bird, and now Jrue Holiday.

The Celtics point guard joined list of Boston legends to secure a pivotal playoff win with a key steal after pickpocketing Indiana’s Andrew Nembhard with seconds to play in Game 3 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday in Indianapolis.

Holiday would hit two free throws after being fouled by Nembhard to give Boston a commanding 3-0 series lead.

The first-year Celtics star was listed as questionable earlier in the day due to illness, but was deemed available to play approximately 45 minutes before tipoff. 

Indiana certainly had a chance to come away with a win in the absence of the team’s injured leading scorer, Tyrese Haliburton. The Pacers led 84-66 midway through the third quarter as the Celtics struggled defensively without their own injured star, center Kristaps Porzingis. 

But Indiana was outscored 33-21 in the fourth quarter as Holiday shook off a lingering illness to lead Boston’s late surge.  

Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) celebrates with forward Jayson Tatum after the steal 

Holiday isn’t the first Celtics star to get a clutch steal in the playoffs.

Celtics announcer Johnny Most famously exclaimed ‘Havlicek stole the ball’ as the future Hall of Famer sealed Boston’s Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics had two separate defensive heroes in the 1984 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

First, in Game 2, it was Gerald Henderson who stole a late inbounds pass from James Worthy with Boston trailing 113-111 at the Garden. The Celtics would push the game to overtime, where they ultimately won, 124-121.

Then in Los Angeles in Game 4 it was Celtics swingman (and former prison guard) ML Carr who stole Worthy’s inbounds pass to Michael Cooper before cruising in for a dunk to seal that hard-earned victory.

Boston would go on to win that series in seven games.

Perhaps the most miraculous of Boston’s thefts came against the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Semis when Bird saved the Celtics from a certain defeat by stealing Isiah Thomas’ inbounds pass and quickly passing to a cutting Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup.

Andrew Nembhard #2 of the Pacers plays defense during the game against Jrue Holiday

Andrew Nembhard #2 of the Pacers plays defense during the game against Jrue Holiday

Boston can clinch its second NBA Finals trip in three seasons with a Game 4 win Monday in Indianapolis, where Porzingis is reportedly likely to return from his right calf injury. 

Jayson Tatum matched his playoff career high with 36 points and had 10 rebounds and eight assists. Jaylen Brown added 24 points and Al Horford had 23 points and seven 3-pointers as the Celtics won their sixth straight playoff game and stayed unbeaten on the road this postseason.

Holiday played despite being listed as questionable with an illness unrelated to COVID-19.

Nembhard led the Pacers with a career-high 30 points before Holiday stole the ball from him with 3.3 seconds remaining. T.J. McConnell finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam each had 22 points.

Indiana played without Haliburton, who sat out with a left hamstring injury, and certainly missed him as Boston closed the game on a 13-2 run. It’s the first loss in seven postseason home games for the Pacers.

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