Tyrese Haliburton's slump comes at a bad time for the Indiana Pacers

Tyrese Haliburton has been struggling lately, and so have the Pacers. Friday's loss to New Orleans may have been the lowest point of his career.
New Orleans Pelicans v Indiana Pacers
New Orleans Pelicans v Indiana Pacers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Indiana Pacers have just suffered perhaps the worst loss of the season to the New Orleans Pelicans. After going down 26-48 in the first quarter, Indiana's attempts to comeback were futile, as their effort to cut a 31-point lead down to as little as 11 in the second quarter was quickly met by a response by the Pelicans which would ultimately carry them to the victory by a wide margin, ultimately winning with a final score of 102-129.

It's hard to find one specific negative in this game to hone in on, as everyone aside from Jarace Walker was a real down point, but it would be foolish to not zone in on Tyrese Haliburton, who probably had the worst game of his career on Friday.

Ever since his hamstring injury in January and subsequent recovery, Haliburton has been rather off his game. In the 32 games before the injury against Boston, Haliburton was averaging 24.2 points, 12.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds on almost 50/40/90 splits. Since the injury leading up to the Pelicans game, however, Haliburton has struggled quite a bit. Not including the game in which he suffered the injury, in the 14 games since, he has averaged only 16.2 points, 9.6 assists, and 2.6 rebounds on 46/36/77 shooting splits, much worse numbers across the board.

However, Friday's performance against New Orleans was without a doubt the worst game of Haliburton's entire pro career, let alone his Pacers career. Normally scoring somewhere in the 20s every game, Haliburton is no stranger to having off nights. Just two games before the Pelicans game, he scored only nine points in a loss to Toronto where it could be argued that his return to the game in the final minutes cost Indiana the win.

18 days before that, in another loss against the Warriors, Haliburton played even worse, only putting up five points in a 22-point loss and shooting 2/7 from the field. However, in those games, he at least scored. Whether it was one bucket or two, Haliburton made sure to put the ball in the basket a couple of times for good measure.

Unfortunately, this was not the case on Friday. For only the second time in his career and the first time in a Pacers uniform, Tyrese Haliburton was held completely scoreless in a game. In almost 23 minutes of action, Haliburton stunk it up on all facets, scoring zero points on 0/7 from the field and only dishing out three assists with a total plus/minus of -40, the second-worst on the team only ahead of Pascal Siakam's -43, although Siakam at least scored 12 points on 5/10 shooting.

This was, in some ways, the culmination of a few bad performances getting the better of Haliburton, as he was struggling in the games prior to this as well. In particular, the last four games have produced perhaps one of the worst stretches of Haliburton's Pacers career, as he is averaging only 10.8 points, 8.3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds on 35.4/20/66.7 splits.

Perhaps the most concerning part about these numbers, besides the low scoring and putrid efficiency, is that Haliburton is far less aggressive than he was before the injury. Before the injury, Haliburton was taking just over 17 shots a game. although since the injury, he has only taken around 12 per game and has settled for more deep threes and long jumpers than simply driving to the rim and finishing like he used to.

This culminated in Friday's loss, where not only did he not score at all, but he only took seven shot attempts, six of which were threes and none of which were layups. For someone who was shooting 73% from around the basket the previous year and a respectable 63% before Friday's game, this is not normal.

This has led people to speculate whether Haliburton is still not fully recovered from injury. As we know, hamstring injuries take quite a while to heal, and in Haliburton's case, although it was only a Grade 1 hamstring strain, it was still a hamstring strain all the same, and his rather quick return to the court may have done him more harm than good.

Hopefully, the hamstring doesn't hamper him for long, because at this point, the performances are starting to become alarming, and with the Pacers now falling to the eighth seed in the East with 21 games remaining, Haliburton will be needed more than ever out there to give the team the star power they need, especially with their schedule going forward not being the easiest.

At this rate, however, it seems the Pacers are looking best when Haliburton sits, as was the case in Monday's game against Toronto. Most likely, this will not become a serious trend, as stars go through slumps all the time, but it is still something to be concerned about, as these performances are starting to stack up and may lead to catastrophe. Of course, part of why Haliburton plays through injury is to reach the 65-game All-NBA threshold, which if he reaches, he will make an extra $50 million.

Of course, we as fans only know so much and are only really relegated to speculation. At the end of the day, the Pacers' medical staff and Haliburton himself know best how to handle his recovery, and they will sit him out if they see fit.

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For now, however, it is a bit concerning, and hopefully, a pattern that stops repeating itself, starting on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.