3 skills that make Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton an underrated finisher

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Julio Aguilar/2023 Julio Aguilar)
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Julio Aguilar/2023 Julio Aguilar) /

Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton’s knack for swinging the basketball to open teammates is most obviously impressive, but the skillset allowing him to orchestrate highlight plays and cut the defense from the inside-out is easy to overlook.

Haliburton has converted 64 percent of his layups this season and 73 percent of his shots within 3 feet of the basket (via basketball-reference.com).  This level of efficiency from close-range forces defensive rotations, which subsequently elevate Tyrese’s playmaking.

His length and arrhythmic pace are two attributes that make Tyrese difficult to defend inside, but his arsenal of basketball knowledge dictates how he uses these attributes to create offensive advantages for the Pacers.  Once he gets two feet in the paint, he makes split-second reads and pushes the basketball to the most threatening spot on the court–sometimes straight to the hoop.

This approach to offense is most successful if the primary ball handler can make the right reads and finish opportunities that the defense concedes.  So why is Tyrese Haliburton perfect for the job?  He has three key skills that propel him into elite-level finishing territory:

1. He understands how to use the glass.

Tyrese has a unique understanding of how the angle at which he shoots the ball should dictate where he places it on the backboard.  He’s able to adjust his shot and finish layups over a variety of defenders.

Here Tyrese beats his defender and drives into the paint for a layup.  He puts the ball off the top of the glass, keeping it out of Kevin Durant’s reach.

2. He knows how to protect his shot.

Haliburton modifies his layup attempts by reaching under the rim or stretching straight out with the ball before going up to lay it in.  This lets him use the rim or his own body to protect his shot from being blocked.  If the defender tries to block from this position, he’ll likely be fouled.

In this clip he reaches out with the ball and uses his length to protect his shot attempt from Al Horford.  Horford has to pull his arms back to keep from fouling Tyrese, allowing Tyrese to get a clean look at the basket.

3. He shows impressive body control through contact.

Tyrese’s slight frame makes it easier for defenders to knock him off balance when he’s airborne or driving to the basket.  He redirects the momentum from this contact by adjusting his body mid-air.  This alteration allows him to find a better angle, and from there he’s able to modify his shot accordingly.

In the second clip of this thread, Haliburton finishes a layup after absorbing contact from Joe Harris.  He delays his shot in anticipation of the contact and releases it after the initial collision.  This mid-air delay keeps the contact from interrupting the shot attempt and creates a high-quality layup.

Tyrese Haliburton’s basketball IQ is elite, and his approach to finishing tough shots inside comprises just a fraction of his offensive arsenal.  His use of his own body, the rim, and other defenders to manipulate looks at the basket is part of an underrated skillset that makes him the engine of the Pacers’ offense.  High-level finishing  generates ample playmaking opportunities–something with which Tyrese and the Pacers are already well-acquainted.  As Haliburton’s finishing efficiency trends upward, so will the Pacers’ offensive output.