The Indiana Pacers just keep rolling, don't they?
Following an upset win over the heavily favored top-seeded Boston Celtics in the quarterfinals to make it to Vegas, the Indiana Pacers have rode that momentum all the way to the tournament finals by beating the Milwaukee Bucks in another thriller of a game that came down to the wire.
Outside of the third quarter, this may have been the most balanced and well-rounded game the Pacers have played yet. The first half went as good as it could go, with Indiana enjoying a 12-point lead at the half.
Despite a strong Milwaukee third quarter to put them up four, Indiana persevered and won in the end, all thanks to one man, the same that has gotten them this far in the first place, Tyrese Haliburton.
After a fantastic outing against Boston, where he put the NBA world on notice yet again, Haliburton showed the world that he was not done just yet with another game-defining performance. Once again, despite playing the most minutes out of anyone on the Pacers and looking visibly tired near the end, Haliburton put up 27 points on 11/19 shooting and dished out 15 assists.
If that isn't impressive enough, these 15 assists came with zero turnovers. Yes, you heard that right. Zero turnovers. Tyrese Haliburton has had multiple games this season of 15+ assists and no turnovers. In fact, the last time Tyrese Haliburton turned the ball over was November 30th, with it being eight days since his last turnover.
Haliburton has had plenty of fantastic passes as a Pacer, but these highlights stand out even in his amazing repertoire. This wrap-around dime to Obi Toppin is still confusing and another example of how Haliburton continues to amaze people who think they have seen it all.
While Haliburton's playmaking was certainly a fantastic aspect, it was not what ended up winning the game. For that, he would have to take matters into his own hands and hit the dagger himself, and what a dagger that would be. For the game-sealer, Haliburton decided to step back and hit a three to put Indiana up by eight points and get a special call from Mike Breen.
Immediately following the shot, Haliburton looked at his wrist in a celebration designed to mock Bucks point guard Damian Lillard and his iconic "Dame Time" celebration, stating, "I know what time it is." While Haliburton has been known to celebrate big plays before, this was perhaps his cockiest celebration yet and certainly got a rise out of social media and attracted the attention of Lillard himself.
That is not to say Haliburton did it all by himself, though, as right behind him in the scoring column was Myles Turner, who pitched in 26 points and 10 rebounds of his own, along with Bruce Brown and Isaiah Jackson, who added in 10 and 14 points, respectively. Rounding out the bunch was Obi Toppin, who scored 14 points, including a spectacular reverse alley-oop dunk off a Haliburton lob in the fourth quarter to build a large momentum swing for the Pacers.
Despite the win on national television and the move to the finals, the road was not without its bumps, as Andrew Nembhard unfortunately went down with a non-contact knee injury five minutes into the fourth quarter. Nembhard's injury raised concerns among Pacers fans, as a non-contact knee injury on a plant is always a scary sight.
Currently, the diagnosis is a sore knee, but more details are expected to be released soon. This was a huge loss for Indiana, as Nembhard was a huge part in limiting Damian Lillard to only four points on 2/10 shooting in the first half.
Instead of their momentum being completely depleted after the injury, Indiana used their newfound motivation to fuel themselves to victory, going on a 23-14 run for the rest of the game and ultimately getting the win with a final score of 128-119.
With this win, the Pacers have advanced to the In-Season Tournament finals on Saturday, where they will face the Los Angeles Lakers, their biggest test yet. The Pacers' history with Lakers superstar LeBron James has been long and extensive, with James routinely getting the better of the Pacers in recent years.
However, this is a new Pacers team, and they pose a credible threat to the Lakers, who qualified by blowing out the New Orleans Pelicans 133-89 to advance to the finals.
Win or not, the Indiana Pacers have fully established themselves as a force to be reckoned with for the present and future, and they have certainly let the Vegas fans know who they are, especially Tyrese Haliburton.