Following a solid performance against New Zealand off the bench in a surprisingly shorter amount of playing time than before, Tyrese Haliburton and Team USA were back for their second group play game against a familiar opponent.
Team USA is quite familiar with this Greece team, as they faced them in their fourth exhibition game prior to the tournament, coming away with a 108-86 victory. That was Tyrese Haliburton’s weakest performance for Team USA thus far, as he only recorded six points and four assists with four turnovers in 19 minutes of action.
Thankfully, this would be the outlier rather than the norm, as he followed up that performance with a 16-point explosion against Germany. Nevertheless, Tyrese struggled against Greece, not being able to get touches despite openly begging for the ball on certain occasions.
Coming into this game, there were talks of Haliburton deserving a starting spot alongside Jalen Brunson or even replacing Brunson in the starting lineup. Many have noticed how much better Team USA’s offense is with Haliburton running the show and distributing the ball as opposed to Steve Kerr’s preferred iso-heavy starting lineup of Brunson, Anthony Edwards, and Brandon Ingram all sharing the court.
Either way, this would not change Kerr’s lineups, as they remained the same for the 7th game in a row and it looks more and more likely that Kerr will not budge on his lineup preferences.
The only thing we can hope for is another solid Tyrese Haliburton performance off the bench in his usual 19-21 minutes of playing time.
Tyrese vs. Greece: First Half
Despite his solid performance against New Zealand, Haliburton had to sit on the bench the longest out of any game so far, getting subbed in with only 1:40 left in the first quarter. About 40 seconds later, Haliburton would block a shot and subsequently turn the ball over as his pass to Austin Reaves couldn’t get hauled in.
This would be all he did in the first quarter, as Haliburton’s next contributions came about two minutes into the second quarter with two made free throws for his first points of the game. About two minutes later, Haliburton would get another block, which set a new Team USA career-high for him and was quite uncharacteristic for a player of Haliburton’s position and size.
Haliburton would also notch his first assist of the game shortly after this, with an impressive drive and no-look bounce pass to Paolo Banchero for the dunk.
Less than a minute later, Tyrese would get his first field goal of the contest, draining a three in the corner after some impressive handles from Austin Reaves and a pass got him the open look.
Tyrese would get subbed out for the rest of the first half with 4:31 remaining, ending his first-half contributions at five points, one assist, one rebound, and two blocks, surprisingly.
Solid numbers for sure, but the second half is where Haliburton has done most of his damage for Team USA, so let’s see if he kept that tradition up today.
Tyrese vs. Greece: Second Half
Haliburton would have to sit on the bench for another prolonged period of time, this time waiting for over 10 minutes before seeing his first minutes in the third quarter with 3:52 remaining. Unfortunately, he would be pretty quiet in the 3rd, not recording a stat for the remainder of the quarter.
Haliburton would be a bit more active in the 4th quarter, throwing an assist to one of his favorite targets, Cam Johnson, for a 3-pointer. He would also add to his impressive defensive performance with a steal and get a second assist to Johnson for another 3-pointer.
Also, while this didn’t result in any stats for Haliburton, he was involved in one of the most spectacular plays of Team USA’s FIBA run so far, as he and Austin Reaves put on a show on the fast break, trading flashy passes until Bobby Portis converted inside. This is just one of the spectacular plays Haliburton has made with Reaves, furthering their chemistry and making fans all the more excited for what they can do in the near future.
Haliburton would get another bucket, upping his total to seven points for the night, and would finish his night with a third block, and a subsequent fast-break dunk off a combined rebound/pass from one of his best friends on the team, Josh Hart. This would be Haliburton’s ninth point of the game and would extend Team USA’s lead to 29 in the final minute of a lopsided contest.
Haliburton’s Final Stats and Takeaways
Tyrese Haliburton made up for his poor initial performance with a very solid 21 minutes against Greece in which he recorded 9 points (3-5 FG, 1/3 3PT, 2/2 FT), three assists, two rebounds, one steal, and a very surprising three blocks, setting a FIBA career high so far as Team USA cruised to a 109-81 win over Greece.
While the stats don’t immediately jump out on paper, Tyrese certainly played better than they indicated, with his +/- of +14 being the fifth-highest on the team and would have been the third-highest if he was in the starting lineup. This further shows his impact on the floor and how well Team USA plays with him, which the HoopsHype Global Rating further proves, ranking him as the fourth-best player on Team USA.
One thing to note is that the top three players in this rating are all bench guys, with Jalen Brunson being the highest-ranked starter in fourth place
While Haliburton’s offense is usually the focal point of his productivity, he was very impressive on defense tonight as well, with his three blocks and a steal usually turning into productive offense on the other end.
That is not to say his defense was the only impressive part about his performance, however. Haliburton’s offense shone through as it always does. Despite the rather low stat total, it was the little things that made the difference tonight for him.
Things such as ball movement, chemistry, and overall comfortability with him on the floor are why Haliburton can be a plus to the offense without gaudy stat totals. Through these seven games, one thing is evident. Tyrese Haliburton’s teammates love playing with him and are not afraid to show how they feel about his spectacular plays.
Haliburton has also expressed some impressive humility thus far, as he spoke to the media about his continued bench role following the win over Greece and gave a very mature answer, noting the legends that have come off the bench for Team USA in the past and stating that he’s in it for the bigger goal, which is getting the win.
So far, it is safe to say that he is achieving that goal with his team, as Team USA is 0-2 in group play so far, winning both games by comfortable margins and securing their advancement in the FIBA World Cup.
However, one can not just ignore his fantastic performances with his limited minutes and perhaps suggest that he gets more time to show his skills.
As a matter of fact, the issue of minutes doesn’t end with Haliburton, as Paolo Banchero, and Austin Reaves are also deserving of more minutes, as the duo of them with Haliburton is key to blowing a game wide open for Team USA to never look back and get a win.
Haliburton, for his part, has not let that affect his spirit, as he is often seen joking around with the media and his teammates, even making light of a fan trying to distract Anthony Edwards during the game.
Team USA has been crushing the competition and Tyrese Haliburton has played a huge part on the big stage, showing the world what he can do, and is having tons of fun along the way.
At the end of the day, the Pacers have not had a player like this on this type of stage since Paul George back in the 2010s, and fans are taking notice, with some even criticizing the NBA for not putting the Pacers on national TV more and more or less hiding them behind the bigger market teams.
Only time will tell how the NBA treats the Pacers in the future. However, as maybe with the arrival of Haliburton and the new offseason editions, Indy will be too legit to be ignored and could force themselves to be talked about when the NBA’s elite are discussed.