clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

On the poetic redemption of Tyrese Haliburton’s game-winner

And how he splashed threes to turn the tide of the team’s recent struggles against switches

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Eleven days ago, long before he was referred to as a “wannabe, fake All-Star,” Tyrese Haliburton was locked up by the Miami Heat, tallying just one point in what was the lowest scoring game between any two teams this season. More so than the numbers, however, what summarized that particular contest is this possession — a rare sighting not only of Haliburton operating away from the ball, but also of Haliburton operating as the screener.

For a player who ranks second in touches per game and sixth in time of possession, it was a telling sign of the coverage from the entire game, which saw him blanketed by Caleb Martin’s full-court pressure and stymied by Bam Adebayo switching out in the half-court. In theory, what the Pacers were aiming to do was create defensive confusion with ghost flare action, either producing a gap for T.J. McConnell to attack downhill (with Adebayo being kept honest by the flare screen or potentially giving up a dive), playing through the flare option (shaking Haliburton loose without attacking Adebayo head-on), or flowing into slot pick-and-roll (with Haliburton occupying the nail help). It was a fine plan — good, even. And it might have worked if Haliburton had been more aggressive.

Instead, with Miami plugging the gap on the drive and switching the flare screen, he did this. As in, during the point in the game in which he was 0-of-8 from the field, including misfiring on all five of his shots from deep, he didn’t shoot despite having space to shoot.

As a result, the very thing the Pacers were trying to avoid ended up happening, as he then transitioned to spinning his tires against Adebayo in isolation until finally, after avoiding a series of selective traps, the ball made it’s way to McConnell to play the part of grenadier.

Just like they drew it up, right? Well, fast forward to his 43-point performance against the same team on Friday night, and suddenly, he very much did shoot, ending the game (both figuratively and literally) with a franchise-record 10th three.

Poetically, meanwhile, in addition to overcoming his worst offensive performance of the season in the prior match-up, the make came from a moment of defensive confusion with him receiving a ghost screen rather than being relegated as the ghost screener. In part, that’s because he weaponized his range early (again, both figuratively and literally), as he repeatedly hunted the switch pocket in the first half.

On any switch, the player defending the screener is typically going to be trailing to a certain degree on the approach, which provides a split-second window when one defender hands the ball-handler off to the next to rise above the open gap.

That’s what happened, here, providing further evidence of the magic touch of touch screens, when Kyle Lowry disconnected too early before Tyler Herro could connect.

It’s also what was exploited, here, when he proactively pulled from deep during the switch as opposed to going right at Adebayo.

And it occurred yet again, here, when Jimmy Butler wasn’t at the point of the screen, nor on-point with the exchange.

Put simply, because he was beating the switch by beating the timing of the switch, he was later able to beat the actual switch, leveraging the threat of his shooting to drive while eliminating the reasons why he was starting some possessions away from the ball during the fourth quarter of the prior match-up.

All of which is to say that, after struggling to scheme around Jarrett Allen in Cleveland and arguably scheming too much for Julius Randle versus New York, Haliburton turned the tide of the team’s recent struggles against switches, transforming troubled water into a rain shower — both from him as a shooter as well as for HIM as a real, should-be All-Star.