Pacers' bench kept them in it, then Tyrese Haliburton sealed the win in Cleveland
The second unit helped the Pacers recover from an awful start, Aaron Nesmith scored a career high, T.J. McConnell's spark was needed and what fueled Haliburton.
CLEVELAND — Tyrese Haliburton isn’t maximizing his minutes. Two games in, and he knows he needs to be better for the Pacers to continue to win games. He had two points (and eight assists) at halftime on 1-of-6 shooting.
Aaron Nesmith told him ‘As he goes, we go,’ and later, Haliburton found his mojo and took over.
The Pacers led the entire second half, but the Cleveland Cavaliers had trimmed the deficit to two points with 4:08 remaining. Haliburton was done playing with his food and extinguished the Cavs in winning time.
He knocked down a 3-pointer out of a scramble with 3:43 left, then, in LeBron James’ old arena, he did James’ Silencer celebration.
“I needed to see some shots to go in because the first half was rough,” said Haliburton, who is harder on himself than anybody.
Then after Myles Turner was issued his fifth foul, Haliburton kept getting an earful from a fan sitting courtside, an older gentleman with gray hair.
Oh, now it was on.
Haliburton came down and went right into a 3-pointer shot over Caris LeVert. And then another one the next time down. After the third one in a 57-second span, the television broadcast caught Haliburton looking directly at the fan and saying, “That’s your fault. You did this.”
Reggie Miller would be proud.
“I needed some extra motivation to get myself going and, I won’t say verbatim what he said, but he told me to basically stop whining,” Haliburton shared after finishing with 21 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists.
For the second game in a row, the Pacers got off to a poor start and it was the second unit that recovered. The Cavs scored their first 12 points in the paint, had gone up 15-3 and led by 15 until, finally, a change was made.
The Pacers then kept the Cavs to just 12 second-quarter points, and took an 11-point lead into the locker room. And from there, they never trailed again.
“It couldn’t have been much worse of a start, but we kept our poise, kept playing,” coach Rick Carlisle said after the 125-113 win to begin the season 2-0. “The second unit came in and gave us a big lift. T.J. McConnell was +21 in 18 minutes and he was obviously a major influence on the game.”
He also led in the team huddles a few times. Assistant Jenny Boucek spoke up multiple times, too, presumably about defensive matchups. Carlisle said he talked with his staff at morning shootaround about finding a time for McConnell (8 points, 8 assists) to be inserted.
“It was pretty clear in the first quarter that we needed him and what he brings,” Carlisle said.