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Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton coming into his own as latest guard to give Knicks trouble in the playoffs



After a passive performance in a Game 1 loss to the Knicks, Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton vowed to be better in Game 2.

He was.

And after a second straight heartbreaker put the Pacers down 0-2 in the second-round playoff series, the 24-year-old point guard offered a wise-beyond-his-years perspective.

“It’s only my second series,” Haliburton said at the time, “but I feel like once you start to say, ‘Damn, we should’ve won that game,’ it’s going to mess you up moving forward.”

He didn’t let that happen.

Haliburton, a two-time All-Star in his fourth NBA season, got off to an uneven start this spring in his first trip to the playoffs. His 16.0 points per game in the first round against Milwaukee were 4.1 fewer than he averaged in the regular season, while his shooting numbers (43.5% field goals, 29.6% on 3-pointers) also paled in comparison (47.7%, 36.4%).

His six points on six shot attempts in Game 1 against the Knicks prompted his own admission that he needed to be more aggressive.

He certainly has been. Haliburton’s 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting led the Pacers in their 130-121 loss in Game 2. So did his 35 points on 14-of-26 shooting in their 111-106 win in Game 3. And Haliburton’s 20 points and +31 point differential in a 121-89 drubbing of the Knicks in Game 4 both paced the Pacers, despite him resting for the entire fourth quarter.

“Tyrese is a great young player,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said before Tuesday’s Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. “He’s so respectful of where we are at this moment. He wants to learn. He wants to help the team win. … He’s the leader on the floor, so his job is to help do whatever’s needed. Sometimes it may not be scoring as much.”

Haliburton’s postseason ascension comes amid a rash of injuries, including a barking bark he tweaked during the Bucks. He entered the Garden on Tuesday listed as questionable for Game 5 due to lower back spasms, as well as for a right ankle sprain and a sacral contusion, both of which picked up during Game 3 against the Knicks.

“I’m hurting, but they’ve got guys hurting, too,” Haliburton said after Game 3. “Everybody’s hurting right now.”

But Haliburton hasn’t missed a game this postseason.

Haliburton previously suffered a left hamstring strain on Jan. 8. He was averaging 23.6 points and an NBA-best 12.5 assists per game at the time, then missed 10 of the next 11 games. His production after the injury dipped to 16.9 points and 9.5 assists per game over his final 36 regular-season appearances.

Haliburton’s scoring remained down during the sixth-seeded Pacers’ series victory in six games over Milwaukee in the first round, during which he eclipsed 18 points only once, with 24.

Speculation about his health grew after Game 1 against the Knicks, but Haliburton quickly quieted those concerns. His 34 points in Game 2 marked his most since his hamstring injury, until he topped that total in Game 3. His +31 in Game 4 represented his best point differential since December.

“He’s a great player,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said before Game 5. “We have to do better. He got going. He does it all. He can shoot. He can put it on the floor. He can pass.”

Haliburton is the latest in a long line of guards to haunt the Knicks — a list that also now includes Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey.

Like Haliburton, the fourth-year Maxey came into his own this postseason. The 23-year-old totaled seven turnovers in Games 1 and 2 of his first-round series against the Knicks but committed only six turnovers over the next four games.

Maxey willed the Sixers to an instant-classic Game 5 victory by scoring seven of his 46 points in the last 25 seconds of regulation and totaling 22 points during the fourth quarter and overtime.

Other Knick-killing guards include Pacers great Reggie Miller, who averaged 23.1 points per game across six series against them from 1993-2000; and Atlanta’s Trae Young, who averaged 29.2 points per game in his first-ever playoff series to eliminate the Knicks in five games in 2021.

Michael Jordan scored at least 40 points seven times against the Knicks in the playoffs. His 54 points in Game 4 of the 1993 Eastern Conference semifinals remain the most ever by a Knicks opponent in a postseason game.

“I want to play high-level basketball,” Haliburton said at a Pacers practice in Midtown between Games 1 and 2. “I’ve always wanted to play playoff basketball. I’m here.”

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