What Game 6 means for the Indiana Pacers and Tyrese Haliburton

With the Pacers' season on the line on Friday, this is what a win or loss could mean for the team.
May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) argues with New York
May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) argues with New York / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in four years, the Indiana Pacers find themselves facing elimination in the playoffs, and things are getting tense.

After getting blown out in Game 5 and going down 2-3 in the series, the Pacers faced plenty of criticism in the media and among NBA fans, not only for their play but for their perceived lack of toughness. Additionally, Pacers fans themselves have been criticizing the team as much as non-fans have, especially after they embarrassed themselves on Tuesday.

With Game 6 being the most important Pacers game since their do-or-die Game 6 in Miami in 2014, it holds quite a bit of weight regarding how the team is perceived in talks of the best young teams in the league.

Let's get one thing out of the way first, the Pacers have long since overachieved this season. Prior to the 2023-24 regular season, the Pacers were expected to win anywhere from 38-40 games and hover around the Play-In Tournament, perhaps winning a game or two in the playoffs.

Even if you asked most Pacers fans how they would have liked their season to go, they would have said they would be happy with a playoff berth and skipping the Play-In altogether. The Pacers have smashed the wildest expectations this season by not only making the playoffs outrigh, but winning their first playoff series in ten years.

Now, the perception and expectations surrounding the team did change after they traded for Pascal Siakam, which leads me to this point. If the Pacers manage to win Game 6 on their home turf, they will fully validate the Pascal Siakam trade. Indiana traded for Siakam to get more offensive firepower alongside Tyrese Haliburton and improve their defense, which they did, going from the worst defense in the league to around league average.

However, Siakam has been under fire quite a bit in these playoffs for his cooldown after a hot start, averaging 19 points in the Knicks series, compared to the 36.5 points he averaged over the first two games of the Bucks series. A Game 6 win can shut up all the Siakam critiques, at least for one night, while a loss will start all kinds of agendas about how Indiana perhaps should not have traded for Siakam and accelerated their rebuild.

As for Rick Carlisle, this game can also do a lot for his reputation, With Indiana's first-round victory over the Milwaukee Bucks being Carlisle's first playoff series win since his Mavericks won the title in 2011, the perception around him started to swing in a positive direction.

However, he has still been under scrutiny for his mishandling of rotations, which has been a problem for the majority of the season. Additionally, Carlisle has also been criticized for insisting on putting Andrew Nembhard on Jalen Brunson instead of Aaron Nesmith, who has shown to be a far better matchup in this series.

If Carlisle fixes his rotations and puts Nembhard on Nesmith in Game 6, he will save his reputation as a coach for at least another game. However, if he runs the same questionable rotations, running several minutes without one of Tyrese Haliburton or Pascal Siakam on the court, as well as continuing to have Nembhard guard Brunson, the offseason takes could get ugly surrounding the veteran coach.

Speaking of Tyrese Haliburton, it all comes back to him in the end. As the star of the Pacers, this team goes as far as he takes him, and that has shown in the playoffs. Indiana has a 5-1 playoff record when Haliburton decides to take 15 or more shots compared to a 1-4 record when he takes less than 15 shots.

Plenty of people have noticed this, as after his horrendous Game 5 where he only took nine shots and scored 13 points, Haliburton was criticized left and right by analysts and fans alike for his passiveness and lack of aggression, especially since Jalen Brunson emptied the clip and scored 44 points on the same night.

If Haliburton continues his passive play and decides not to shoot once again, he risks having his reputation dropped to an all-time low heading into the offseason and the Olympics. However, if Haliburton gets his act together and shoots more, similar to how he did in Games 2-4, the Pacers absolutely have a chance of winning Game 6 and Haliburton can redeem himself for all the mishaps he has had over the season. Already put under a microscope in his age-24 season, now is as good a time as ever for Haliburton to turn his reputation around and play like the superstar he is.


For everyone from the star player to the recently acquired star, to the coach, to the state of Indiana as a whole, a lot hangs in the balance for the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.