Tyrese Haliburton needs to be the max player the Pacers paid him to be

Another passive Tyrese Haliburton performance has the Pacers down 3-2 in the series. To avoid elimination, Haliburton must pick it up on Friday.
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Five
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Five / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Tyrese Haliburton is a fantastic player, but he has to step it up now.

After getting criticism left and right for his passiveness in Game 1 of the New York series where he only scored six points on six shot attempts. Haliburton stepped up his play in the following three games. averaging almost 30 points on 20 shot attempts per game as the Pacers won two of the next three games to tie up the series 2-2. After Game 4, it seemed like the Tyrese Haliburton of old was back and he recognized how much the team needed him to be aggressive and play like the star that he is.

Unfortunately, all of this progress was erased in Game 5. In seemingly a repeat performance of his Game 1s against New York and Milwaukee in the first round, Haliburton looked like his inferior passive self, as he only took nine shots and scored 13 points, his second-lowest point total of the series, fourth-lowest of the playoffs, as well as the fourth-lowest point total of his during the playoffs.

This performance was quite puzzling for fans. After getting chastised over and over again for his lack of aggression and desire to score despite being quite good at it, Haliburton had seemingly turned over a new leaf in the last three games, driving to the basket and taking every shot the defense gave him. Somehow, all of this progress was lost in one single game, and it played a major factor in the Pacers getting embarrassed in a 91-121 loss to go down in the series 3-2.

At this point, it's do or die for Haliburton. With Indiana down 3-2, one more loss will result in their elimination from the playoffs and the end of their season. Tyrese Haliburton essentially has no choice but to pick up his play on Friday. In the regular season and playoffs, there is a direct coorelation to his level of play and whether or not Indiana wins. In these playoffs, the Pacers are 5-1 in games where Haliburton takes at least 15 shots and 1-5 in games where he takes less than 15 shots.

The bottom line is Indiana is much better when Tyrese Haliburton shoots, and he needs to take that to heart in Game 6. The Pacers can afford a bad Game 6 as much as Haliburton can, which is not at all. After all, if the Pacers lose on Friday, they are eliminated from the playoffs and will have to watch the Eastern Conference Finals from the couch despite having a leg up in the series.

The Pacers' quest to avoid imminent doom starts and ends with Tyrese Haliburton. He has to realize that he is the best player on the team and take a superstar amount of shots. Anything less than 15 shots on Friday is not enough, and everyone knows it. To his credit, Haliburton usually follows up a bad, passive game with a much better, aggressive game. This time, however, he needs to do it twice.

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Game 6 will essentially make or break the public perception on Tyrese Haliburton. Either he is a playoff performer who rises to the occasion when called upon, or he is too passive for his own good and not ready for the spotlight. Hopefully, he will respond with his game face on.