Tyrese Haliburton’s breakout season continued on Saturday night when he went off for 22 points, five rebounds and a career-high 23 assists in the Indiana Pacers’ 140-126 win over the New York Knicks. In the process, he tied the Pacers’ franchise record for assists and joined Magic Johnson and John Stockton in a highly exclusive club.
“I didn’t know 23 was the franchise record otherwise I would’ve hunted to get 24,” Haliburton said. “Assists don’t happen without guys making shots. … Guys have to make shots for me to get assists and we’re doing that at a high clip right now.”
After a bit of a post-In Season Tournament slump, the Pacers have now won three games in a row. The turnaround is thanks in large part to their main man, who has been orchestrating their offense to perfection, and making history in the process. Over the three games, Haliburton is averaging 25.3 points and 17.7 assists, and has turned it over just five times — an astounding 10.6/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“His offensive level is beyond elite,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s put a lot of work in these last two summers. Reads, being able to create rim pressure and to increase his range, and so, teams are in a real bind. He causes major problems.”
Most notably, he became the first player in over three decades to have back-to-back 20-point, 20-assist games, and just the third player ever. The last player to do so was Stockton on March 1 and March 3, 1990. Johnson, meanwhile, is the only other player to pull off the feat, and did so on Dec. 18 and 19, 1994.
“That’s fire, that’s pretty cool,” Haliburton said. “Any time your name is brought up with legends of the game it’s a blessing and it’s awesome.”
If you look solely at assists, Haliburton is the fourth player to have consecutive 20-assist games, joining Johnson, Stockton and Kevin Porter.
In the process of his record-setting night, Haliburton also got a bit of revenge on Knicks broadcaster Wally Szczerbiak, who called the Pacers guard a “wannabe All-Star” last season. While Szczerbiak apologized on the broadcast — “I was dead wrong” he said — Haliburton clearly hadn’t forgotten the matter. Late in the game, he stared Szczerbiak down and had some words for him.
Asked if Szczerbiak’s comments motivated him heading into this game, Haliburton said “yes,” but noted he was more focused on getting the win against a Knicks team that is close to them in the standings.
Thanks to their recent hot streak, the Pacers are back above .500 for the season at 17-14. They are still stuck in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, though, which has them outside of the top-six and a guaranteed playoff spot. The Pacers haven’t been to the postseason since 2018, and are looking to snap one of the longest droughts in franchise history.