The Indiana Pacers will not have their floor general for at least the next two weeks after point guard Tyrese Haliburton sustained an elbow and knee injury in a loss against the New York Knicks.
The freak incident happened in the third quarter when Haliburton lost a sneaker and crashed to the floor at Madison Square Garden. Haliburton landed awkwardly, and banged his left knee on the hardwood, but the fall also caused a left elbow injury.
Haliburton exited the game and never returned. Reporters spotted him limping out of Madison Square Garden on crutches.
Haliburton underwent an MRI on Thursday, which revealed a double whammy — a knee contusion and sprained elbow — and the Pacers decided to rest him for two weeks.
The Pacers will re-evaluate Haliburton in two weeks, but the elbow injury is a bigger concern. His knee contusion should clear up in a few games.
Haliburton leads the Pacers in scoring this season, and he played like an All-Star. He averages a career-best 20.2 points, 10.2 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game. He’s the NBA’s assists leader and only player in the NBA to average double-digits in dishes. He’s shooting 39.9% from 3-point range, which a smidge lower than last season’s clip of 41.6%
Haliburton/Hield Trade a Key to Indy’s Success
The 22-year-old Haliburton is in his third NBA season. The Sacramento Kings selected Haliburton, a star from Iowa State, with the #12 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Pacers shipped big man Domantas Sabonis to the Kings in exchange for Haliburton and Buddy Hield prior to last season’s trade deadline.
Most NBA trades are lopsided with one team thriving while the other gets screwed. In this instance, both the Kings and Pacers are pleased with their swap. At the time, it looked like the Pacers exiled Sabonis to no man’s land because the Kings had the longest-running playoff drought in the NBA. However, the Kings are one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season thanks to the addition of Sabonis. They currently occupy the #5 seed in the Western Conference playoff standings and hold down first place in the Pacific Division.
The Pacers are also one of the big surprises in the Eastern Conference. Prior to the loss to the Knicks, they were five games over .500. If the season ended today, the seventh-place Pacers would participate in the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. However, they were among the top six teams for the majority of the first half of the season.
Despite their early success, bettors have been overlooking the Pacers (23-19) at +20000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, according to DraftKings’ NBA futures board.
The Pacers are in third place in the Central Division, and four games out of first place. The Milwaukee Bucks are favorites to win the division at -200 odds, followed by the Cleveland Cavs at +150. The Pacers are long shots to win the Central Division at +10000 odds.
Next Man Up: Rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard
Head coach Rick Carlisle installed a guard-heavy offense. Haliburton and rookie Andrew Nembhard were the starting backcourt, while Hield is a swingman who can play shooting guard and small forward. The second unit had a trio of guards that includes veteran point guard TJ McConnell, rookie Bennedict Mathurin, and Chris Duarte.
With Haliburton out, McConnell should slide into the starting lineup if he prefers someone more experienced than Nembhard. Then again, Carlisle could shake things up and start a pair of rookies with Nembhard and Mathurin in the backcourt. Mathurin previously started two games this season.
At any rate, the injury to Haliburton provides more playing time for his deep bench especially Mathurin. The Pacers selected Mathurin out of Arizona with the sixth-overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He made a big impact as the Pacers’ Sixth Man and third-best scorer. He averages 17.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. His shot selection needs improvement, along with his 3-point shooting (33.2%), but those are both universal problems that rookies struggle with during their first season in the league.
The Pacers knew they had a blue-chip prospect with Mathurin, but they might’ve gotten a steal with Nembhard. The Gonzaga product was a late second-round draft pick, but Carlisle was impressed with the rookie during training camp, especially his defense. He inserted Nembhard into the starting lineup and he’s been a good compliment to Haliburton and Hield.
Nembhard average 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds in only 27 minutes per game. The Pacers have a lot of guards in their bench rotation, so Nembhard had to share court time with fellow rookie Mathurin. However, Nembhard should soak up more minutes while Haliburton is out the next couple of weeks.
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