Potential playoff schemes against Haliburton and the Pacers
Despite Haliburton and the Pacers having a fantastic run, their momentum was stopped by the Los Angeles Lakers, who played them almost perfectly on defense, double-teaming and trapping Tyrese Haliburton all game and putting long, athletic defenders on him, such as Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt and limiting his offensive contributions to a minimum.
This loss will definitely stand as a learning experience for this Pacers team, who, as stated before, is not exactly rich with playoff experience, having exactly one NBA champion in Bruce Brown on their team and only one other player that has gone on a deep playoff run in Aaron Nesmith.
Ever since Paul George's injury and Indiana's efforts to come back from the Victor Oladipo injuries, Indiana has been given the moniker of a "tough out," that being a team that will have a good regular season, but not be a top seed, and will, at most, give some contender a very hard time in the first round of the playoffs.
This has been Indiana's title since roughly 2016, and they are clearly looking to change that this year. One step in changing that notion will be to figure out potential defensive playoff schemes. With Indiana most likely finishing around the 5 to 7 seed range and facing a team such as the 76ers, Bucks, or even the Miami Heat in the playoffs, it is safe to assume that those teams will build their defensive gameplans on how to stop Tyrese Haliburton before anyone else.
To prove that theory right, look no further than the tournament championship game against Los Angeles. The Lakers' strategy for the night was to put as many defenders on Haliburton as needed and allow the other players to beat them if they wanted.
Unfortunately for Indiana, those other players were basically nonexistent on the night. Outside of Haliburton's contributions, the Pacers went an abysmal 27/81 from the field, shooting 33% and 24% from beyond the arc, even with Haliburton's 2/8 from downtown factored in.
Nobody outside Haliburton shot 50% or above from the field, and Indiana's offense was slowed to a crawl all game.
While the Pacers still kept it close all the way until around the halfway mark of the fourth quarter, the Lakers' balanced play on both ends stopped any hopes of a Pacers comeback right in their tracks. This was perhaps the best learning experience the Pacers could get, as Tyrese Haliburton had one of his worst games of the season, and Indiana still could have won if the supporting cast had stepped up.
Above all else, this provides the Pacers with a little glimpse into what playoff competition would look like. As was the concern with Domantas Sabonis before him, when the going gets tough and defenses square in on one player in the playoffs, there is only so much a team can do before they fall apart, and Indiana cannot afford putrid shooting nights like this come April.
Thankfully, this game against the Lakers does not count in the overall standings, and Indiana got an inconsequential learning experience from the Las Vegas trip.
Hopefully Haliburton and the Pacers can learn from this experience and use it to their advantage in the playoffs.