The NBA In-Season Tournament quarterfinal on Monday night marked a significant milestone for 23-year-old All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers. Haliburton, eager for his first taste of playoff basketball, not only achieved a personal first with his career's inaugural triple-double but also played a pivotal role in Indiana's 122-112 victory over league-leading Boston, eliminating them from the tournament.
Haliburton, reflecting on the game's significance, said, “It means the world to me to represent Indiana and this organization”. He referenced a previous 51-point loss to Boston that left a sour taste, making this victory all the sweeter.
Despite facing breathing difficulties in the first half and requiring an inhaler, Haliburton scored 16 of his 26 points after halftime, adding 13 assists and 10 rebounds to his impressive stat line. Myles Turner contributed significantly with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while seven Pacers players reached double figures, showcasing a well-rounded team effort.
This win keeps Indiana unbeaten in the tournament, following a 4-0 record in group play.
Boston Celtics: A Strong Performance but Not Enough
The Boston Celtics, led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, put up a formidable fight.
Tatum scored 32 points with 12 rebounds, and Brown added 30 points and nine rebounds. Despite missing All-Star Kristaps Porzingis due to injury, the Celtics managed to erase an 11-point third-quarter deficit and forced seven ties in the fourth quarter.
However, Haliburton's crucial four-point play, which included a 27-footer drawing a foul on Brown, sparked Indiana's decisive 9-0 run. Boston coach Joe Mazzulla acknowledged the Pacers' overall performance, stating, “He played well.
The whole team played well,” in reference to Haliburton and his teammates. For the Pacers, many of whom, including Haliburton, have not experienced playoff basketball, the game's atmosphere was a new and exhilarating experience.
The energetic crowd, media presence, and single-elimination stakes contributed to a playoff-like environment. Myles Turner noted, “I haven't heard it like this here in like three or four years, probably since (Victor) Oladipo was here.
The energy was just incredible”. The Pacers' turnaround from their previous encounter with Boston, where they suffered a historic blowout, to this triumphant victory, highlights their resilience and growth as a team.
As they advance to the semifinals in Las Vegas, facing the winner of the New York-Milwaukee game, the Pacers' journey in the NBA In-Season Tournament continues to captivate and inspire.