Through four games of group play with Team USA, Haliburton has been impressing everyone from fellow players to fans with his dazzling array of buckets, passes, and even some impressive defensive ability. And Friday’s game against Montenegro was no different.
Indiana Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton earns role upgrade from Steve Kerr in Team USA win over Montenegro
Once again, Tyrese Haliburton’s minutes saw a noticeable increase, going from 21 to 23, as he played more than USA starter Jalen Brunson, with whom he is often a subject of comparison.
Haliburton certainly made the most of his minutes against Montenegro. He put up 10 points (4-of-8 FG, 2-of-6 3PT), six assists, two rebounds, and two steals. He led Team USA in assists for the game as his playmaking was the center of attention, per usual.
That’s not to say it wasn’t for good reason, though. How could you not talk about dimes like this one to Utah Jazz big man Walker Kessler?
Or this alley-oop pass right into the arms of Paolo Banchero, which brought Team USA ahead in a close game?
That said, Haliburton didn’t let his teammates do all of the work. Ae saved some shots for himself, including this and-one fadeaway he made look easy.
However, much like the first game against Greece, the most surprising aspect of today’s game was Haliburton’s defensive effort. Not only were his two steals impressive on paper, but his point-of-attack defense was exceptional.
Wait, hold that thought. “Played the entire fourth quarter?”
Yes, as it turns out, Haliburton’s 23 minutes were no coincidence, as Kerr couldn’t deny his ability and longer and decided to keep him in for the entire fourth quarter of a relatively close game, as Team USA extended a six-point lead to 12 and won the game 85-73.
This was very uncharacteristic of Kerr, as he has been subbing Haliburton in for the start of the fourth and taking him out in the middle or subbing him in during the fourth and letting him play until the end of the game. It was the first Team USA game in which Haliburton played the entire fourth quarter, and it is also worth noting that he played more minutes than Brunson.
Kerr was asked about his decision following the game and gave Haliburton and fellow bench player Austin Reaves a good amount of praise for their performances so far.
This is precisely what I and every other Pacers fan have wanted ever since the start of Team USA’s run at the FIBA World Cup. Haliburton doesn’t need to start, but having him out there for long stretches of time, especially with Team USA’s lack of playmaking in the starting lineup, would work wonders for their bottom line.
Brunson and Anthony Edwards are talented scorers, but the playmaking is not there in USA’s starting lineup. Having Haliburton and Reaves play extended minutes, preferably sharing the court to shoulder some of the playmaking load, would be fantastic in avoiding scares and close games, such as the ones against Montenegro and Germany.
In the meantime, Kerr has been very vocal about his support of Haliburton so far, which will surely bolster the star’s confidence going forward.
Kerr even compared Haliburton to an NFL quarterback looking for five different receivers and taking the ball himself if there’s no option to pass to.
After what has seemed like an eternity of watching Haliburton ride the bench at times when his services could be particularly useful, it seems like the tide is finally starting to turn in the other direction.
With Kerr acknowledging his abilities for the whole world to see, there is no reason why Friday’s 23 minutes have to be the most Haliburton plays during Team USA’s tenure this year.
In the meantime, here’s another example of why Haliburton is the center of attention.
Hopefully, this level of play translates to a breakout season with Indiana next season.