If you haven’t watched Tyrese Haliburton play much before this season, I can’t blame you.
The Pacers only had one national television game before their involvement in the NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals, but after dropping 27 on the Bucks to punch his ticket to the final game versus the Lakers on Saturday, people are starting to take notice of the young Pacers star.
Austin Reaves saw it coming, though.
Haliburton and Reaves shined as part of the bench mob for Team USA and their offensive chemistry was strong when they were on the floor together. Now they’ll share a big stage once again, but this time on opposing sides vying for the first NBA Cup.
Ahead of Saturday’s In-Season Tournament championship game, Reaves spoke about Haliburton and the high expectations he had for him coming into this season.
“I told D’Lo before the season started that, if they’re competing in the East, then I think he has a chance to win an MVP at some point just because of the way he plays, the unselfishness that he plays with, the way he makes his teammates better, that says a lot,” Reaves revealed postgame after the Lakers win in the semis. “Just for the way we played together, it was simple. You knew he was going to play the game the right way and make the right pass. You never had to worry about that with him. You tip your hat to a guy like that for just being so unselfish when you’re that talented.”
For the Lakers to beat the Pacers, stopping Haliburton will be a key factor. He might not quite be at the MVP level Reaves has envisioned for his peer, but he’s clearly the best player on the Pacers, leading that potent offense to this championship game and a 12-8 record.
Slowing down the Pacers and Haliburton won’t be easy, but if anyone can get it done, it’s Anthony Davis and the Lakers.
Non-All-Star Anthony Davis with the clutch bucket and the block on All-Star Tyrese Haliburton.— Giovanni Rossi (@spawnix) February 3, 2023
The Brow tonight: 31 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 stocks.
You heard the man. First Team All-Defense.#LakeShow #BoomBaby #NBAAllStar #NBA pic.twitter.com/uJDNRfD8Wp
Davis, as the team’s defensive leader, will have to make sure everyone is aware that defending Haliburton is priority number one. Fans will be hoping Davis can replicate last season’s success versus the Pacers when he came up big late blocking Haliburton in the closing minutes of that regular season showdown.
High-stakes games are a rarity in December, but this is one of them. We’ll know a lot more about each team after this matchup, but fans should already know Haliburton is legit and the Lakers better give him the appropriate attention if they want to win it all on Saturday.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.