Tyrese Haliburton’s heroics lifts Pacers to upset Game 7 victory over Knicks: ‘You’ve made history’

NEW YORK — Fans in Madison Square Garden should’ve known it was going to be Tyrese Haliburton’s night.

He finished the first quarter with a statline most players would be happy to finish with in a playoff game: 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, including four made three-pointers.

But Haliburton is a rising superstar and he intended to use The Garden as his stage to continue a spectacular Game 7 performance.

His stepback treys were almost automatic. He dashed around the court to create for his teammates in transition.

And when he knew victory was near, he bounced around after every bucket knowing the Pacers were booking a ticket to Boston with a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“I knew today’s Game 7,” Haliburton said after eliminating the Knicks, 130-109. “Unload the clip, have no regrets because I would hate to be pissed all summer about not shooting the ball today.”

The Pacers were able to eliminate the Knicks with the help of Haliburton’s team-high 26 points, six assists and four rebounds. He made 10 of his 17 total attempts (6-of-12 from deep) while only turning the ball over twice.

And his contributions with the Knicks making one last real push to avoid elimination kept Rick Carlisle’s team afloat.

The Pacers led by 15 at halftime and were on the wrong end of a 12-3 run that shortened the lead to six. At that point, Haliburton took control, pushing pace to assist Andrew Nembhard on a two-pointer. He then rifled a pass to stretch five Myles Turner while near the baseline that resulted in a three pointer.

Jalen Brunson, who didn’t finish Game 7 due to a hand injury, attempted to thread the needle on a pass but Haliburton was right there to deflect it. The turnover led to an easy score on the other end for star.

Then, he sucked all the excitement out of Madison Square Garden.

He drained his sixth trey of the game, a 25-foot pull-up the stretched the lead back to a comfortable 18 points. The star danced on his way back up the court as the bench cheered on an all-around clutch night for the 24-year-old.

His head coach likened the big plays to a former Pacers legend hated by Knicks fans for his clutch plays.

“Today he knew we needed some special shotmaking,” Carlisle said postgame. “There were shades of Reggie Miller running around in that first quarter.” Carlisle recalled another Haliburton trey that stretched the lead and said “those kind of shots in those moments give a team confidence.”

The elite shotmaking was on display all day in Game 7. The Pacers finished the win shooting 67% from the field. And their torrid first half that featured an unreal 76% shooting from the field was the best shooting half in a playoff game in the last 25 years, per ESPNStatsInfo. Their mark surpassed the Spurs’ record set in the first half of Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

“They made shots. They’re a very good offensive team,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said after getting eliminated. “You gotta challenge their shots, and we didn’t challenge them as much as we should have. When you’re shorthanded, we know we have to play with great intensity all the time to give ourselves a chance to win. If you fall short of that… and sometimes the ball goes in and yours doesn’t, but I thought for the most part we fought all year. To come back in the third quarter and make a run again, and then that’s when Jalen, I knew when he went out in the 3rd, I knew something was awry.”

Haliburton’s heroics led to the Pacers breaking the streak of home team’s defending home-court in the 2024 Eastern Conference Semifinals series. The loss stung Knicks fans in attendance. And Carlisle made sure to let his team realize the feat that was just accomplished.

“I just told our team ‘when you win a Game 7 in Madison Square Garden, you’ve made history,'” Carlisle said. “It’s very, very difficult to do. This is the most raucous crowd in the NBA.”