On Tuesday night, the Indiana Pacers beat the Houston Rockets off the back of a second-half masterclass from Tyrese Haliburton to improve their record to 29-23 four games before the All-Star Break.
However, what many fans on both sides of the coin are talking about was the not-so-friendly exchange of words near the end of the night between Haliburton and Dillon Brooks of the Houston Rockets.
Let's start with some history.
Haliburton and Brooks' paths did not cross much prior to 2023 outside of the occasional regular season matchup. This would continue to be the case until the 2023 FIBA World Cup in Manila, Philippians.
On perhaps the biggest stage of both players' careers, Haliburton and Team USA would surprisingly fall to Team Canada in the Bronze Medal Game. In this game, Dillon Brooks stole the show for Canada.
Coming off a playoff embarrassment at the hands of LeBron James and the Lakers, Brooks played like he had the biggest chip on his shoulder, leading all scorers with 39 points on 12/18 shooting and blocking two shots to help lead his Canadian squad over Haliburton, who only had six points on 2/8 shooting in perhaps his worst World Cup game showing to date.
While a bad World Cup showing is certainly something to talk about, as Quinn Buckner mentioned during the game, it's not really a valid petri dish for a potential beef.
That would occur as the season started, when Brooks made an enemy out of the Pacers in the preseason, undercutting then-Pacer Daniel Theis on a screen and hit him in the groin, thus getting himself ejected five minutes in his Rockets 'debut' and earning a $25k fine from the league before the season even officially started.
With Brooks making an enemy out of the Pacers early on, it would only be a matter of time before he and Haliburton crossed paths again, and this would happen in Indiana's first of two meetings with Houston, where Brooks would convert on a layup and celebrate by staring down Haliburton, who fell to the ground during the shot attempt.
Side note: Brooks finished the game with nine points on 4/9 shooting while Haliburton's 33 points on 13/21 shooting and late dagger were enough to hand Indiana the 123-117 win.
Lopsided matchups aside, something would potentially be brewing the next time these two faced off, and for the first 47 minutes, it seemed like nothing was the case. Haliburton played fantastic in recovery from injury, and Brooks was also effective, scoring 23 points on 8/15 shooting.
However, the defining moment would come in the final 20 or so seconds. With Indiana hanging on to a 127-130 lead and Houston cutting it to a one-possession game, Haliburton broke apart the Jeff Green-led defensive assignment and converted a tough layup to put Indiana up by five points with 21 seconds left, after which he and Brooks exchanged some words which looked a bit more hostile than friendly.
Now, let's make one thing clear: these two probably don't hate each other. While there were some jabs exchanged back and forth, there probably wasn't anything too outlandish said, and most of it was probably just in the heat of competition.
However, it is amusing to know that right after these words being exchanged, Brooks would miss two straight three-pointers on what would be Houston's final possession of the game to erase any hopes of a miracle comeback.
With Indiana slowly crawling their way to the league's upper echelon, it is interesting to see what small rivalries develop along the way, and perhaps this Brooks/Haliburton saga is something to watch out for next season when Indiana faces Houston again, or whatever team Brooks may be on at the time. For now, you can chalk the regular season tally up as 2-0 in favor of Tyrese Haliburton.