Rick Carlisle Explains Why He Pulled Starters Against Celtics

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The Celtics were comfortably in the lead throughout Game 2, but it appeared the Pacers gave up too early Thursday night.

Boston held a 13-point lead late at TD Garden, but Rick Carlisle decided not to play his starters through the majority of the final quarter. A 13-point lead is not insurmountable in the NBA, but it’s possible Tyrese Haliburton leaving due to a hamstring injury might have played a role in Indiana’s lineup decision. However, the Pacers head coach’s answer to why he played the second unit in the fourth might shed light on his side for the rest of the series.

“To look at some guys that I thought needed a look,” Carlisle told reporters, per CLNS Media. “McDermott went in there and played well. Isaiah Jackson brought a lot of fight to the game. Jalen Smith hasn’t had much of an opportunity to play in the playoffs so I wanted to see where he was at. We weren’t giving up, but it was an opportunity to get fresh guys in there to fight. They did some good things. The guys that had played to that point, Pascal (Siakiam) was very tired. Aaron (Nesmith) was tired and he had four fouls. That was it.”

Jaylen Brown admitted he found the strategy “weird,” but there could be an underlying issue for Indiana.

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The Pacers entered Game 2 days after a physical series against the New York Knicks that went the full seven games and an overtime contest in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

It’s possible Carlisle was thinking long-term so that his team was better suited to defend homecourt, where the Pacers are undefeated in the postseason. It’s up in the air if Haliburton will be able to suit up in Game 3 as Boston commands a 2-0 series lead.

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