Coming into Tuesday's matchup against Houston, there were plenty of questions to be answered, the main one being the main issue on Pacers' fans' minds since January 30: Tyrese Haliburton's health and minutes distribution. That issue quickly came into play.
While Indiana hung a respectable 68 points in the first half, Houston somehow outdid them in the scoring department, scoring a whopping 75 points on an even more impressive 65% from the field and 66.7% from beyond the arc.
The second half was very much a game of runs. As soon as the Rockets would make some shots to increase their lead to 10, Indiana would come charging back and cut it to three. This happened quite a few times back and forth before Buddy Hield hit a three-pointer to give Indiana its first lead since early in the second quarter.
From there, Indiana surged for the rest of the third quarter and carried their momentum to the fourth, where, despite a late Houston run to cut the lead to as little as three points, the job was complete, and Indiana walked away with the 132-129 victory.
This game was quite literally a tale of two halves, as the Pacers went from playing virtually zero defense in the first half to playing fantastic, hounding defense in the second half, crowding Houston on every possession and making it far tougher for the Rockets to score.
Indiana forced them into an abysmal second-half performance, holding them to 39% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc en route to them scoring 54 points compared to the first half's 75.
As for the individual players, while Jabari Smith Jr. was on fire in the first quarter, scoring 18 points on 8/10 shooting, he would go 0/5 in the second half, only scoring 2 points on free throws.
Jalen Green, Dillon Brooks, and Amen Thompson would be Houston's only consistent offensive options, as Green continued his hot first-half start, putting up 16 points on 7/12 shooting, while Thompson and Brooks added 9 and 11 points, respectively.
Offensively, Haliburton's second half was far more reminiscent of the pre-injury version of himself we all know and love. Haliburton led all scorers in the second half, scoring 16 points on 7/12 shooting while dishing out three assists and, surprisingly, blocking two shots.
In addition to these stats, Haliburton also put the cherry on top of the game, hitting the game-sealing runner to put Indiana up five with 21 seconds left, dishing out some words with Dillon Brooks afterward, which were made even more hilarious after Brooks missed two straight three-pointers the very next possession to cost Houston any shot at winning.
All in all, this was a fantastic win for Indiana, where they managed to weather the storm of a putrid defensive first half and stay focused on the task at hand to tighten up their defensive approach and take control of the game down the stretch.
Haliburton played perhaps his best game since the injury a month ago, and with the trade deadline coming up, the Pacers have a big decision on their hands. Stay put with this team and hope the chemistry with Siakam gets them to the promised land, or make one last move in the hopes of strengthening the rotation before April.