It's always a plus when a team gets a win without their best player, and that's exactly what happened with the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. Despite Tyrese Haliburton missing the game due to an upper respiratory infection and sitting out just his second game of the season, Indiana's role players stepped up to the plate, namely TJ McConnell and Bruce Brown, to get the team a win against a rival.
While this was a much-welcome win by a shorthanded Pacers team, the same cannot be said for the last time Indiana played without Haliburton.
Before that, let's start from the beginning.
In Tyrese Haliburton's first full season with the Pacers (2022-23), he played 56 out of 82 games. In those 56 games, Indiana went 28-28 and was actually looking like a playoff team before he initially got injured, sitting at 23-19 before his injury in the New York game.
Without Haliburton, the Pacers plummeted, going 7-19 in the 26 games without him and ultimately missing out on the playoffs entirely. This alone shows how much Haliburton means to the Pacers.
Still, following this season, Indiana got some reinforcements in Bruce Brown and Obi Toppin to give Haliburton some help and perhaps ease the load when he isn't playing. In the two games Haliburton has missed, this has delivered mixed results.
Indiana's first game without Tyrese Haliburton in the 2023-24 season was a disaster. Facing a juggernaut in the Boston Celtics, Indiana collapsed without their point guard and lost by over 50 points while allowing efficient games from basically every Celtics player.
This game was the first real wake-up call for Pacers fans, as they realized how important Haliburton really is to this team and what the worst-case scenario would look like without him.
Coincidentally, a little over a month later, Indiana would once again be without Haliburton, as they lost him due to aforementioned reasons on the second of two back-to-back matchups against the Miami Heat.
In the first matchup, the Pacers would lose momentum in the second half and blow a double-digit lead despite a career-high 44 points from Haliburton. With this in mind, fans were not expecting the greatest result on Saturday, even with Bam Adebayo missing the game as well.
What they got was a pretty nice surprise, though, as six Pacers scored in double figures, led by 30 points from Bruce Brown and a combined 22 assists from TJ McConnell and Andrew Nembhard en route to a 15-point Pacers win without Haliburton.
Everyone on the team stepped up, with seven of the nine players that took shots shooting above 50% and four players scoring 20 or more points. Indiana showed why they had the league's best offense and put on a clinic without their best player there to lead the charge.
To me, these games look like the best and worst-case scenarios without Haliburton. Indiana was caught off-guard against Boston without their best player and got blown out by a contender by historical margins.
After a month, with the new players having gelled and the team chemistry improving, Indiana showed what they were made of against the Heat without Haliburton and delivered this time, putting on an offensive showcase without one of the best offensive players there to lead the way.
As the season goes on and Haliburton's health remains an uncertainty, it will be increasingly important for the Pacers to become increasingly more comfortable in the non-Haliburton minutes as anything can happen in the NBA.