Do the Indiana Pacers have a Tyrese Haliburton problem?

The Indiana Pacers lost on Sunday night to the Spurs and Tyrese Haliburton had another bad game. Is there a reason to be concerned?

Mar 3, 2024; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots over San
Mar 3, 2024; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots over San / Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
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The Indiana Pacers' situation has unfortunately gotten worse. Two days after a demoralizing 102-129 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Pacers played almost as uninspired and unmotivated on Sunday's matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. Despite the Pacers usually playing well on bounce-backs against worse teams, that could not be said for their recent efforts.

Despite beating the Spurs by 41 points in November, the Pacers played like they had never seen this Spurs team before and were completely outmatched, trailing 26-16 after the first quarter and playing from behind the rest of the game, just as they did in the Pelicans game two nights before, except instead of playing a playoff contender, the Pacers were losing to a far inferior lottery team.

Overall, despite even taking the lead a few times and leading by as much as three points, the Pacers could not overcome a Spurs team that gave them plenty of chances to take control, with their biggest lead only being 13 points.

The Pacers eventually fell behind by too much and were completely outclassed in the second half to finish with a 105-117 loss to drop them a full game below the seventh-seeded Miami Heat, firmly placing them in the eighth seed until further notice, which may not come for a while as Miami faces the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Pacers, not every team is as incompetent against worse teams as they are, as they showcased against the Spurs.

For the second game in a row, and the third time in four games, one of the Pacers' worst players was otherwise their best, as Tyrese Haliburton's struggles continued against Victor Wembanyama and company. After producing his first-ever scoreless game on Friday, Haliburton improved slightly but not by much on Sunday as he scored 12 points, dished out eight assists, and grabbed six rebounds on putrid 4/16 shooting and 0/6 from three while finishing second worst in plus/minus with -14.

Tyrese Haliburton's struggles have come at a bad time for the Pacers

Haliburton's struggles have come at a less-than-opportune time for the Pacers, as the playoff race between the 4th-8th seeds in the East is heating up and the Pacers are relying on him to get them out of the 8th seed hole which could very well land them in a first-round matchup against the dominant Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, Haliburton has not been able to do that in the last few games, with his play since his return from hamstring injury causing some concern among fans around the league.

Clearly, Haliburton is not yet fully recovered from his injury. While the physical aspect may be close to 100%, he has still not overcome the mental hurdles that come with an injury of his nature, and that is seen in the stats. For the season, Haliburton averages 13 drives per game and 7.1 points on drives per game. However, since the trade deadline, he has only driven 9 times per game and only scores 2.2 points on drives per game. Of course, part of this has to do with his injury, but another part may be the absence of Buddy Hield.

Despite Hield's lack of motivation in his final weeks with Indiana, his gravity as a shooter never changed, and the Pacers, especially Haliburton, benefitted from said gravity quite a bit. In addition to the on-court gravity, the locker room also benefitted from Hield's presence, as he was one of the most well-liked players on the team, especially with Haliburton.

Are injury residuals to blame for Haliburton's slump? Is the Buddy Hield trade to blame? The answers to these questions are yes, no, and also maybe. Tyrese Haliburton is going through what all stars go through at times, especially new ones, which are growing pains. Despite the Pacers surprisingly being better off with him on the bench recently and his play being borderline terrible recently, he is still the heart and soul of this team and the Pacers will go as far as he takes him, regardless of how well the other guys do.

Next story. Pacers can't handle Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs in loss. dark. Next

Long story short, the Pacers are currently struggling, but thankfully, their play earlier in the season has more or less assured they will not move lower than the eighth seed. Worse comes to worse, Haliburton will most likely be healthy in time for the first Play-In game to avoid a Boston matchup. Of course, there's always the chance the Pacers' fortunes change if Haliburton picks up his play, and Indiana finally makes a big run to finish as a top-six seed. As of now, there is still a lot of basketball to be played, and we are none the wiser.