Pacers have a serious problem with Tyrese Haliburton minutes decisions

The Indiana Pacers have been trying to manage Tyrese Haliburton's injury with a minutes restriction, but they can't seem to get it right.
Indiana Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers Injury Report
Indiana Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers Injury Report / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers have just come off their third loss in a row. They lost to the Boston Celtics, the Sacramento Kings, and then the New York Knicks, the last of which was on the first day of February. While they have had plenty of avoidable, embarrassing losses so far, the Knicks one was perhaps the most avoidable and embarrassing.

Despite leading by as much as 15 at times, Indiana let the Knicks stay within arm's reach of their competition and remain in the driver's seat throughout the night.

In the end, Indiana's inability to put the game away would come to haunt them as New York pulled ahead behind a fantastic quarter from Jalen Brunson and Miles McBride, ultimately capping off the night with a 105-109 victory and a monumental collapse from Tyrese Haliburton and company.

With this being perhaps the most embarrassing loss of the season, there were plenty of things to take away as the reasons why Indiana lost. For one, the age-old rebounding battle, of course, tipped in the opposing team's favor, except this time it was more lopsided than usual.

Despite improving on the offensive boards after Pascal Siakam's arrival, Indiana only managed to grab nine offensive rebounds on the night compared to New York's 24, including eight each from Precious Achiuwa and Isaiah Hartenstein.

The rebound battle was especially rough in the fourth quarter, as Indiana grabbed no offensive rebounds and only managed to pull down seven defensive rebounds compared to the Knicks, who recorded 10 of each rebound en route to complete domination on the boards all night long.

Lopsided rebounding battle and lack of effort aside, perhaps the main thing that did Indiana in on the night was the same thing that did them in against Boston on Tuesday, with that being the questionable handling of Tyrese Haliburton's limited minutes.

As many know by now, Haliburton has not had a clean bill of health this season, going down with a Grade 1 Meniscus tear on January 8 against Boston and missing the next five games recovering.

Despite coming back for one night in Indiana's loss to Portland after acquiring Pascal Siakam, Haliburton would then need to sit the next five games out for injury management, as the front office and coaching staff did not want his injury to get any worse than it already is.

As a result, ever since coming back to the lineup against Boston, Haliburton has been put on a strict minutes restriction of around 22 minutes per game staggered all throughout.

This is where the issues start. Despite being by far and away Indiana's best player and one of the most clutch players in the league statistically, Haliburton's minutes have seemed to be scattered through the first three quarters majorly, as he has not seen a single fourth-quarter minute since returning to the lineup against Boston.

Notably, Indiana has looked fantastic with him on the floor in these limited minutes, as he has shown little rust or signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, it is when he's off the floor that Indiana cannot fully get the job done.

Despite having one of the deepest rotations in the league, Indiana still needs their superstar point guard to handle business when the going gets rough, and so far, they have not seen any of that. In fact, Haliburton has not seen a single fourth-quarter minute in over 10 days, as the last time he played in the final period was during Indiana's disappointing loss to Portland on January 19, his return game alongside Pascal Siakam.

This has had a direct impact on Indiana's ability, or lack thereof, to close the last two games, with both coming down to the wire and resulting in the same outcome for Indiana: A loss.

Indiana attempted to solve the issue against Sacramento by saving Haliburton for the end of the game, but their plan to do so was to bring him off the bench. Again, it didn't work.

While it is nice to see Haliburton back healthy, and staggering his minutes until he fully recovers back into the swing of things is a good idea, perhaps a better formula would be necessary to keep him in winnable games if needed.

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The two games Indiana had against Boston and New York could be potential playoff matchups, and the Pacers would need all the momentum they could get going into these series, with both potential opponents having far more playoff experience than most of the players in Indiana do.

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