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Haliburton, Pacers looking for help in crunch time
Like the Bulls, teams will focus on dealing with the Pacers point guard with the game on the line. Who is ready to help counter that approach?
Following the Bulls win over the Pacers on Monday night, Chicago coach, Billy Donovan expressed his satisfaction with the way his team approached the game plan. But in a tight game, teams that adjust down the stretch end up winning.
“I think in the last six or eight minutes of the game, you gotta start like, really looking at matchups and doing those kind of things,” Donovan said.
In this case, “those kind of things” involved running half-court actions that forced Tyrese Haliburton to manage a switch and defend DeMar DeRozan. In the final six minutes, the Bulls made this work in their favor four times.
One game after his offense closed out a win in Cleveland, Haliburton’s defensive struggles helped let a win slide away when things were a struggle for the Pacers at the offensive end. The Bulls made Haliburton work all night, having defenders pester Hali all over the court when the Pacers were on offense along with targeting him on defense late.
During a Monday morning interview on 107.5 The Fan, Rick Carlisle lamented the missed opportunity his team had to extend their lead heading into the fourth quarter, instead settling for a 5-point lead headed to winning time. Then the veteran Bulls did “those kind of things” and suddenly the Pacers were in trouble.
Employing these types of pesky defenders or a larger, solid defender on Haliburton will be the norm going forward. He is without question the head of the snake for the Pacers. When shots aren’t falling, and they were not falling on Monday, the Pacers will always struggle to find ways to win.
This is why Carlisle harps on turnovers, fouls and rebounds as areas that can make winning easy or help overcome rough offensive nights and still be in position to win. The Pacers won the rebounding battle, 47-44, but 17 turnovers and 24 fouls resulting in 31 free throws was not a winning combination. In fact, it is remarkable that the Pacers only lost 112-107 considering all of those factors. But until closing time, the team defense was pretty good.
So, the Pacers had to win in a different style with all of the misses on offense and couldn’t quite pull it off. While there were good signs throughout, crunch time is always highlighted in close games. Haliburton finished with 19 points and 13 assists, including two assists in the final three minutes, but couldn’t find his shot at closing time, while giving up buckets at the other end.
There is a lot of talk about the quality depth among the Pacers rotation, but who among those role players can rise up in a dirty game like the one on Monday and help the Pacers gut out some tough wins?
Tyrese Haliburton (right ankle sprain), Bennedict Mathurin (elbow bone contusion) and Jalen Smith (left knee sprain) popped up on the injury report on Tuesday afternoon before the team left for Boston. The Celtics are off to a strong start and appear focused on setting the standard in the East this season. Haliburton missing a chance to take on the C’s would stink.
Mathurin’s injury seems to be the most alarming, in need of further review. A bone bruise on his shooting elbow is a problem regardless of the severity. As for Jalen Smith, it would be a shame if he had to miss much time this early in the season. Stix has been a consistent bright spot after seizing the backup big spot in the rotation. There truly hasn’t been much drop off when he plays those reserve minutes behind Myles Turner. They have formed a reliable duo, able to impact the game for the full 48 minutes.
The schedule kicks into gear now, with home games on Friday and Saturday after playing in Boston on Wednesday.
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