Tyrese Haliburton makes the leap
The Pacers' guard headlines a talented group of NBA overachievers
BY DAVID THORPE
A few hours before the clock struck midnight to kick off 2023, the Pacers’ future arrived.
The Pacers had knocked off the Heat and Celtics on the road, then the Cavs and Hawks at home over the prior 10 days. If they lost this New Year’s Eve tilt against the full-strength Clippers, it would be okay. The team has terrific young players: A sixth man (rookie Bennedict Mathurin), an elite perimeter defender (rookie Andrew Nembhard), and 22-year-old sensation Tyrese Haliburton. The future is bright.
Being down six with 5:27 left in the fourth quarter—to a fully operational Kawhi Leonard-and-Paul George Clippers team—is a lot to ask of a young team. The Pacers had just given up 38 points in the third; perhaps they just lacked the star power to hang with a real contender.
And then, right before our eyes, we saw the leap.
Haliburton dropped 14 points in the final four minutes, and the Pacers needed every single one of them to eke out a 131-130 win. It was their fifth victory in six games—all against high-hopes contenders. The performance capped an amazing holiday run in which his career-high 43 points (including 10 buckets from downtown) against the Heat’s eight-best defense garnered headlines, but his 29 points (making six of his eight 3-pointers) against the Cavs’ league-leading defense deserved more attention.
Haliburton has become a star: a headliner for a new generation of young talent changing the regular-season landscape of the NBA.
Players are supposed to get better, for years. The more we do things, the better we should get at doing them. Sometimes, though, players get better faster than normal.
Today, we’ll take a look at how Haliburton leads a group of players who have accelerated into the NBA’s elite.
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