Pacers need to get Tyrese Haliburton going in Game 2 of series vs Milwaukee Bucks

Haliburton took just seven shots on Sunday
Apr 21, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) takes a shot in Game 1 of the Pacers series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Apr 21, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) takes a shot in Game 1 of the Pacers series against the Milwaukee Bucks. / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — Tyrese Haliburton only attempted seven or fewer shots in a game four times during the regular season. In all four of those games, he played for under 26 minutes due to either an injury or a blowout. When Haliburton played 30+ minutes per game this campaign, he averaged 16.2 shot attempts.

Yet during Game 1 of the NBA playoffs, the two-time All-Star guard shot just seven times in 37:43 of action against the Milwaukee Bucks. He couldn't wiggle free, and he didn't look like his aggressive self. Milwaukee cut off the rim, sent two defenders to Haliburton often, and tried to force him left. They mixed up their coverages in a way that slowed the star guard more than most teams were capable of during the regular season.

"I've just got to be better. And I will be on Tuesday," Haliburton said on Sunday after the game.

Some teams have forced Haliburton to think during his attacks. Usually, it's a group that can keep him out of the paint. Orlando and Chicago had standout defensive games against the league's assist leader during the recent campaign.

Teams with size have given the Pacers offense fits, too. The Lakers, Magic, and Timberwolves all were difficult matchups for the blue and gold at times. Last night, Milwaukee was a double whammy. Head coach Doc Rivers said that size would be key for his team in the series, and that proved to be true in Game 1. They forced Haliburton to operate far from the basket, and they threw size at him for almost 38 minutes. It was a successful plan.

"We had some smart denials," Rivers said Monday. "I thought we jammed a lot, that was particularly pretty good for us," he added. Those jams slow Haliburton down and change the pace of the game.

The Pacers go as Haliburton goes. Their offensive rating was nearly five points per 100 possessions better with Haliburton on the court during the regular season, and that number is similar for the team's net rating. His best games are the Pacers best games. He's a tremendous talent and an offensive engine.

But his worst games can be Indiana's worst games. He sets the pace and draws attention. When Haliburton is neutralized, Indiana doesn't look like themselves. His effectiveness and engagement is vital.

He didn't reach the necessary level in Game 1, both due to the Bucks defensive plan and his own shortcomings. "I thought their scout was good, but I think a lot of it was more self-inflicted," Haliburton said of his play on Sunday. He finished with nine points and eight assists on 4/7 shooting. "They're a good team, they guard well. Honestly, a lot of it is on me more than anything. I'll be better tomorrow."

Milwaukee wing Malik Beasley said that Haliburton is the head of the snake, and they're trying to stop him as much as possible. "It's hard to stop a great player, but you can contain him. That's what we did."

The Pacers need to free Haliburton from being contained. Center Myles Turner said that he and Pascal Siakam discussed it after Game 1. They want to ignite their star guard — and they need to in this series,

Haliburton wants to be more engaged. He said that Milwaukee's coverage wasn't anything he hasn't seen before, he just needs to be better. The star guard is in his first-ever playoff series.

He watched the film of game one again and knows what the Bucks did in their attempts to contain him. Milwaukee routinely sent aggressive coverage toward Haliburton, and they clearly wanted to force him away from the basket. His pass-first instincts kick in at times against those defensive schemes.

But he's seen these coverages before. He busted out of a slump in December and was effective to end the season after a down stretch in March. He's worked through struggles this season and hopes to again.

"He's just got to play. He's got to do what he does," Siakam said Monday. He doesn't want to tell Haliburton what he should do and believes his teammate will figure it out.

Haliburton acknowledged that his team has had strong responses to poor performances all season. They'll need to figure out how to get into the paint in Game 2, and their energy in the first half will be vital. That can all help make up some of the team's 15-point deficit from Sunday.

But the Pacers need Haliburton to be more effective and threatening, too. He needs to wiggle free and set the tempo from the jump. Indiana goes as he goes, and he didn't look like a star in Game 1.

"I can be a lot better," Haliburton said today. He has to be in Game 2.

  • 'Embarrassing': Indiana Pacers have dreadful opening to playoffs in Game 1 loss to Milwaukee Bucks . CLICK HERE.
  • Pascal Siakam is the key to the Indiana Pacers playoff success both on and off the court. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark meets Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton, gets praise from Rick Carlisle. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers crushed in first half in Game 1 loss to Milwaukee Bucks. CLICK HERE.
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Tony East


Tony East is the Publisher of AllPacers. He has previously written for Forbes Sports, the West Indianapolis Community News, WTHR, and more while hosting the Locked On Pacers podcast.