The Indiana Pacers were in the driver's seat in the final seconds of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals clash against the Boston Celtics. It seemed like it was a foregone conclusion that they'll be taking a 1-0 lead in the series, as they led the game 117-114 with eight seconds remaining in the game while having control of the basketball. Instead, a comedy of errors ensued, and the Pacers are now staring at a 1-0 series deficit after the Celtics came storming back with a 133-128 victory in overtime.

There will be plenty of blame thrown at Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle for his mismanagement of the final few seconds of the game. The trendiest topic will be his decision not to foul the Celtics with eight seconds remaining and Indiana up by three, as it would have prevented Boston from hoisting up a game-tying three-point attempt.

Carlisle, however, did not see that as his fatal mistake. During his postgame presser, the Pacers head coach admitted that he should have called a timeout on the possession prior to Jaylen Brown's game-tying three that sent the game to overtime to prevent what ended up being a crucial turnover from Andrew Nembhard.

“This loss is totally on me. With 10 seconds in regulation, we should have just taken the timeout, advanced the ball and found a way to get it in and made a free throw or two and ended the game,” Carlisle said, via ClutchPoints Twitter (X). “But it didn't happen. We made some other mistakes. But our guys just need to concentrate on fighting the way they fought in this game from start to finish and we'll be back Thursday.”

Indeed, the Pacers could have made it easier for themselves had they taken a timeout with eight seconds to go in the contest. Inbounding from the sideline in the backcourt is not easy; advancing the basketball would not have guaranteed a successful inbound, but it would have at least allowed them to use the entire court to try and get the ball in.

But now, it's too late for the Pacers to do anything about their Game 1 loss. What's going to be important from here on out is that they stay the course and then just clean up their execution late in games if push comes to shove.

Tyrese Haliburton points the finger away from the Pacers head coach

Blaming the head coach seems to be the easy way out for pundits whenever a team fails to execute late in games. In the Pacers' case, attributing some of the blame to Rick Carlisle seems rather fair, however. Carlisle himself accepted that he had a part to play in the Pacers' late-game meltdown against the Celtics. But the players also deserve their fair share of the blame as well.

At the end of the day, it's the players who produce on the court, not the coaches. The blame falls even more on a star player's shoulders, as it's his responsibility to lead the team to victory. For Tyrese Haliburton, he was not shy in owning up to some of the mistakes he made in a heartbreaking 133-128 overtime loss to the Celtics in Game 1.

“That’s not on him. Us as players, we have to do a better job. I had two bad turnovers that I feel like cost us the game. One in the fourth, one in overtime. I understand he’s protecting us, protecting me as well, but I'll take [the blame] more than he should,” Haliburton said, via NBA TV on Twitter (X).

Indeed, Haliburton had a few careless turnovers at such crucial moments. One came with around 30 seconds left in regulation; Haliburton, when advancing the ball past the halfcourt line, lost the ball, forcing Aaron Nesmith to save it and fail at doing so. That gave the Celtics a chance to tie the game or come within one, but the Pacers caught a break when Derrick White blew a layup and Jayson Tatum missed a fadeaway.

And then in overtime, with the Pacers only down by one, 124-123, Haliburton could not shake off Jrue Holiday's defense. Holiday was smothering him, and as a result, Haliburton lost his dribble and then his balance. He proceeded to turn the ball over, setting up a dagger three from Jayson Tatum that put the Celtics up by three.

These are the kinds of losses that snatch a team's soul. But for Haliburton and the Pacers, this is not the first Game 1 they have lost in this year's playoffs. They will look to bring the same fire that they do for every single game as they try to put the memory of their meltdown in the rearview mirror.

“I gotta be better. And I will be better in Game 2. We'll respond the right way,” Haliburton added.