The first day of the NBA In-Season Tournament quarterfinals is over and it was one hell of an entertaining way to start the knockout rounds. Tyrese Haliburton and De’Aaron Fox, two former teammates whose split put them both on paths to stardom were the ones that really stood out for me.
Tyrese Haliburton gave the Pacers the edge they needed against the Celtics
The last time the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics met, it was a disaster. Boston beat the tar out of them, 155-104, and it drew a lot of laughter at the Pacers’ expense. Since then, Indiana have become perhaps the deadliest offense in the NBA and much of the credit goes to Tyrese Haliburton.
The young point guard, who came to Indiana via the Domantas Sabonis trade, wasn’t available for that first game and he quickly showed the Celtics that it would be no cakewalk with him on the floor.
Haliburton had a scintillating 26 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and a steal without any turnovers while shooting 10 of 18 from the field and 5 of 11 from beyond the arc. He played 40 minutes in the 122-112 victory, which was impressive considering that he was listed as a game-time decision. His passing wizardry allowed his teammates to thrive as six other Pacers scored in double figures.
Haliburton continues to show why the Pacers wanted him. They’ve put the future of the franchise in his hands and he’s shown that he has the talent and maturity to be a team’s leader at the young age of 23. His averages of 26.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 11.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks with shooting splits of 52.1/44.7/88.1 clearly show that he’s a star, and he only coughs up the ball 2.4 times a game.
The Pacers are a little ways off from breaking into the Eastern Conference’s upper echelon for now, but I strongly believe that Haliburton will be the one responsible for eventually taking them there. He’s yet to play a single postseason game but once he gets there, he’s going to make some noise.
De’Aaron Fox couldn’t summon his clutch gene against the Pelicans
De’Aaron Fox will always be linked to Haliburton because of how well the latter is playing for his new team. However, some of the noise around Haliburton being the wrong guard to trade is a little unfair considering just how good Fox has been since last season.
The reigning Clutch Player of the Year has been on a tear this season and even just won the Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time in November. He also took the Kings to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years last season and helped take the then-defending champion Golden State Warriors to a seven game series, one where he broke his finger but still soldiered on.
Sadly, things didn’t go very well for Fox against the New Orleans Pelicans. He struggled from the field, shooting 10 of 25 and 1 of 7 from three as he finished with 30 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal. He also turned the ball over six times, more than the rest of the starters combined, which had a huge impact on the complexion of the game.
After playing their third game in four nights, it also looked like Fox ran out of gas. The chippy game against the Pelicans saw Fox get his lip split open by Jose Alvarado in the first half which needed to get glued at halftime.
The fourth quarter, where Fox is usually at his deadliest, saw him miss a lot of shots that he makes on a regular basis. His midrange jumper came up short multiple times, which is a rare occasion.
That’s not to say that the loss is just Fox’s fault, though. The Kings as a whole couldn’t get a bucket when they had a chance to cut into the Pelicans’ lead in the fourth quarter, and even had one sequence where they had three or four stops but came up empty on the other end every single time.
Domantas Sabonis also had a hell of a game for the Kings with 26 points, 13 rebounds,10 assists, two steals and block with just one turnover.
All credit goes to the Pelicans, though, who just have the Kings’ number this season. This victory puts them at 3-0 against Sacramento this season as their combination of size, length, and shooting now that CJ McCollum is back was too much for the Kings to overcome. The Kings actually led by 15 in the first quarter before a furious run saw the Pelicans cut it to a one-point deficit at the end of the period and the Kings were never able to fully recover the momentum in the eventual 127-117 defeat.