Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the Indiana Pacers' improbable In-Season Tournament run is officially over.
After going 5-0 in group play and knocking out the Eastern powerhouses Celtics and Bucks in the knockout rounds, Indiana unfortunately ran into a buzzsaw in the mighty Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite scoring over 120 points in each of the knockout games, Indiana was held to only 109 points on 36.8% from the field and 24.4% from beyond the arc, both surprisingly awful numbers from a team that is quick to get hot from the field and blazing from downtown.
Through the first three quarters, Indiana seemed to keep pace with the Lakers surprisingly well, entering the fourth quarter down eight points and with no player having a significant offensive explosion yet.
However, the Pacers' luck would run out as they would get outscored 33-27 in the fourth quarter en route to a 109-123 loss to the Lakers, giving LeBron James and company the honor of winning the first-ever In-Season Tournament finals.
Of course, Indiana's offense starts and ends with Tyrese Haliburton, and his performance on the night was mixed, to say the least. The Lakers' defense was stifling all night and completely exposed Indy's lack of a second pure scoring threat next to Haliburton as Cam Reddish and company opted for a blitz attack on Haliburton, smothering him 94 feet and double-teaming him whenever possible.
Despite this, Haliburton still managed 20 points on 8/14 shooting, but only shot 2/8 from beyond the arc and wasn't allowed to fully get going on offense. In addition to this, despite having 11 assists, Tyrese was surprisingly turnover-prone for his standards, committing a team-high three turnovers, with these being the first times he turned the ball over since November 30.
Due to Haliburton constantly being double-teamed and his scoring ability being limited, he would have to defer to his supporting cast more than ever.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Pacers did not deliver scoring-wise, with nobody outside of Haliburton shooting 50% or higher and Bennedict Mathurin's 20 points on 5/11 shooting and 1/5 from three being the only other sizable offensive contributions. Aaron Nesmith also contributed decently, providing 15 points on 4/10 shooting, but he also shot 1/5 from three on a night where nobody's three-pointer was falling.
The worst of Indiana's offensive duds came from Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, and Bruce Brown. Once again, in what seems to be a scary reoccurrence from him, Hield was cold from behind the arc, shooting 2/9 from three and 3/11 from the field overall.
Brown also did not help things, shooting 2/9 from the field and scoring only four points on the night. However, the worst overall performance from any Pacer definitely came from Myles Turner. On a night where he was seemingly scared to contest shots and his own weren't falling at all, Turner had 10 points on 3/11 from the field and 1/5 from three while allowing a historic game from Anthony Davis.
Indeed, it was Davis who did the Pacers in on this fateful night. While LeBron James did have a good game, scoring 24 points on 10/21 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds, Davis' performance was otherworldly, as he scored an improbably 41 points on 16/24 shooting and grabbed a whopping 20 rebounds.
In comparison, Indiana's entire team only managed 32 rebounds on the night. In fact, Davis outrebounded Indiana's top three rebounders on the night combined all by himself, as he put on a performance for the ages, embarrassing Turner in the process to hand Indiana their first and most important loss of the In-Season Tournament.
Thankfully, this game will not count toward the standings, and Indiana remains the fifth seed in the East. However, despite the loss, Indiana has nothing to be ashamed about. Going into the tournament, they were expected to put up a good fight but eventually get eliminated in group play. When that wasn't the case, analysts had them losing to the Celtics.
When that somehow wasn't the case, those same analysts picked the Bucks to beat them. Unfortunately, by the end, their steam and hot shooting ran out, and the Los Angeles Lakers' defense swallowed their offensive gameplan whole en route to their first tournament loss.
Despite the loss, the Pacers have every right to be proud of themselves, especially Tyrese Haliburton. With his performances in group play and the knockout games, it is safe to say that a star was born under the bright lights in Las Vegas and then some.
On perhaps the biggest stage of his NBA career, Haliburton showed that he was not shy of the big moments and that he was here to stay among the NBA's elite. Even in a down game and with him getting doubled and trapped all night, he still managed to put up 20 and 11 and keep his team within striking distance for the majority of the game.
Tyrese Haliburton has fully arrived on the big stage, and thanks to the In-Season Tournament, a lot more fans have been drawn toward himself and the Pacers.