The Boston Celtics' long, arduous comeback in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was finally complete when Jrue Holiday cut off Andrew Nembhard's drive in the open floor and ripped his dribble with three seconds remaining, preventing the Indiana Pacers from pulling out a win just before the final buzzer. Holiday calmly walked to the other end of the floor after being fouled and sank both free throws, setting the stage for a last-second final possession that could result in overtime or a seemingly insurmountable 0-3 hole for the Pacers.

Aaron Nesmith got a quality look just before time expired, crossing paths with Doug McDermott after Rick Carlisle sent four of his players to line up like wide receivers in the backcourt, the type of innovative out-of-bounds play sure to be emulated by coaches across the league for years to come. It didn't matter. Nesmith's fading corner triple bounced off the front iron and over the rim to the Gainbridge Fieldhouse floor, clinching what could be among Boston's most defining victories on the road banner No. 18.

On the postgame podium, Jayson Tatum revealed that Joe Mazzulla's third-quarter plea to the Celtics to stop feeling sorry for themselves inspired their massive second-half comeback. Boston's second-year coach expanded on that message, too.

“When you’re down, it’s kind of like, (expletive), we’re down,” Mazzulla said, per Steve Buckley of The Athletic. “But it wasn’t as bad as it felt, for me personally. In the process of the game, I was like, this feels a lot worse than it actually is. We just gotta tweak a couple of things.

“Once you get out of the mindset of focusing on what happened and get into the mindset of focusing on what needs to happen, then you can just kind of make the shift.”

Celtics on verge of Eastern Conference Finals sweep

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) react after a play against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at TD Garden
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics' stirring 114-111 victory over shorthanded Indiana moves them one victory away from playing for the championship Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been chasing for the better part of a decade. No team in league annals has ever recovered from an 0-3 deficit in the playoffs, and the likely absence of Tyrese Haliburton for Game 4 only makes history less likely to occur. There's still a chance Kristaps Porzingis returns from injury come Monday's contest, too, making Boston whole for the first time since early in the first round as it looks to close out the Pacers.

No matter how the Eastern Conference Finals unfold from here, though, rest assured the Celtics will take solace from their 18-point comeback in Game 3 as their quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy continues.

“Just can’t take your foot off the gas,” Brown said what Saturday's game taught Boston, per Jay King of The Athletic. “We’ve been in that position before where you get comfortable. And you just value every win. It’s hard to win in the playoffs no matter who you’re playing. We just value one game at a time, whatever it takes. One game at a time, play like a team, win like a team, lose like a team and tonight we just stayed with it. Now, we’re one game away from getting back to the finals. And now we got to close them out.”