Rick Carlisle has been getting outcoached in the Eastern Conference Finals

Terrible late-game handling by Rick Carlisle has cost the Pacers Game 3 and the series vs Boston.
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Seven
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Seven / Elsa/GettyImages

The Indiana Pacers are down 0-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and their season is as good as over.

It shouldn't have been this way either. If the Pacers could execute down the stretch, they would be up 2-1 and would be looking for a Game 4 win to go up 3-1 in the series. Instead, Indiana just does not know how to finish games, and part of this is due to Rick Carlisle.

First of all, Rick Carlisle is a fantastic coach. The Indiana Pacers most likely do not get to this point without Carlisle. His ability to unleash the Pacers' offense and maximize Tyrese Haliburton's potential has been second to none and is why Indiana won 47 games and got the playoff seeding they got in the first place. The Pacers most likely do not make it here without Carlisle and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

However, Rick Carlisle has been quite bad these playoffs, which has been on full display in the Boston series. In the first round against Milwaukee and the second round against New York, Carlisle's shortcomings were corrected rather quickly and the team often covered up his flaws.

Still, Carlisle made plenty of awful coaching decisions that cost the Pacers winnable games in the first two rounds, like his awful rotations in Game 1 of the Bucks series, his mishandling of minutes in crunch time of Game 2 of the New York series, and now in every single game in the Boston series.

In Game 1 it was not calling a timeout and not fouling up three. In Game 2 it was sitting the starters in a winnable playoff game. And in Game 3, Carlisle's late-game execution has most likely cost the Pacers the season. Indiana was up by as much as 19 points in the first half and were looking to come away with a commanding win on their home floor without Tyrese Haliburton.

The Pacers shot a smoldering 63.6% from the field in the first half and had a total of 68 paint points, the most they had in a playoff game in 25 years. However, they still let Boston hang around for the entirety of their lead, as the Celtics cut their lead down to nine at the end of the third quarter and came out of the fourth quarter on a huge run. Despite this, the Pacers seemed to have the game in the bag, as they increased their lead to eight with less than two minutes remaining.

Unfortunately, the Celtics quickly whipped out a 9-2 run to take a 112-111 lead with 39 seconds remaining, their first lead since shortly into the second quarter. During this run, Rick Carlisle refused to call a timeout and instead let Indiana play through their slump, during which the Pacers went 0/2 and scored their only points on free throws.

Following the Celtics taking the lead on a Jrue Holiday free throw with 39 seconds left and a Pacers timeout, Jayson Tatum missed a layup with 10 seconds left, and the Pacers started the fast break with Andrew Nembhard essentially running 1 on 4. This, predictably, did not end well for the Pacers as Jrue Holiday stole the ball from Nembhard and drained the game-clinching free throws to come away with the 114-111 win.

Out of all of Carlisle's mishaps in Game 3, not calling a timeout before Nembhard got stripped was perhaps the biggest one. Despite Nembhard having the hot hand, with 32 points, his career-high in any NBA game, a 1 on 4 fast break was still a very unfavorable situation for him, and it showed when he got the ball taken away from him and lost the game in the process.

In the post-game interview, Carlisle stated that he did not call timeout because he did not want to give the Celtics a chance to get their defense set up, however, this seems flimsy at best. Any defensive scheme the Celtics could draw up would have probably been more favorable than four players guarding Andrew Nembhard on a fast break with the game on the line.

While Carlisle's decision to not call a timeout could be excused in the minutes prior to this, this lack of timeout is downright inexcusable, and many are pointing to this moment as why the Pacers lost.

After this win, all hope is essentially lost for the Pacers. Despite them having one more game in front of their home fans on Monday, they have essentially dug their own grave for their season and it is only a matter of time before they get sent packing. In the history of the NBA, no team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit, and with Tyrese Haliburton most likely calling it a season after Game 2, Indiana will be lucky to get one more win, let alone four. At this point, it's not a matter of if Boston will beat them, but a matter of when they will.

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The worst part is that it shouldn't be this way at all. Indiana was one timeout and a few free throws away from winning Game 1 and perhaps some better late-game management away from winning Game 2. They should be up 2-1 in this series, but instead, they are down 0-3 and hoping to postpone their inevitable demise by getting a win in Game 4 to avoid a sweep. Indiana's season shouldn't have ended this way, but it is only a matter of time before it does now.