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Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game One

Source: Sarah Stier / Getty

Game 2. I cannot wait.

If you listened to The Wake Up Call on Monday you know I picked the Pacers in game 1. I thought it was a perfect spot to catch the Knicks basking in the national love they’d been receiving…and whew, I was “this close” to being right. And in the same vein tonight, I still think the Pacers can escape MSG with a win. Their superpower all season has been bouncing back after a tough loss, and that’s what I’m expecting.

As a side note, I also found it interesting that Rick Carlisle and key team leaders decided to not dwell on shotty officiating at the end of game 1, but instead focus on their own mistakes and shortcomings. We’ll see if that focus pays off tonight.

Like I said, I can’t wait for this game. And as we head into game 2 here are 5 quick questions I have about tonight…

1. What’s up with Haliburton’s health and play?

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game One Source:Getty

Let’s cut to the chase and discuss Tyrese Haliburton. Nearly every statistical category has taken a dip in the postseason, and game 1 was no different with Haliburton scoring only 6 points and taking only 6 shots. Even more jarring is how he took just 1 shot in the entire second half.

Now, where’s his health at going into game 2? We’re four games into Haliburton being “questionable” with back spasms. After practice yesterday (Tuesday) Carlisle called it a “concern” and a “factor” but immediately made it known that Haliburton would be playing and that everybody is facing injuries to some extent.

All of this is fine, but I won’t be able to accept the Pacers blaming Haliburton’s injury if they come up short in this series.

2. Are we letting Siakam off the hook?

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game One Source:Getty

To me there’s an easy answer to the question and it’s YES. Between officiating blunders and Haliburton’s play/injury not much has been said about the supposed max level player in Siakam.

After dazzling performances in game 1 and 2 of the Bucks series, Siakam has hit a wall. He’s averaging just 16 points and 7 rebounds over the last 5 playoff games, including going just 3-17 from three-point range.

These cannot be the types of performances the Pacers get from a guy wanting a max deal in just a few weeks. (And yes, it doesn’t make it any easier that he’s being guarded by OG Anunoby)

3. What about playing McConnell down the stretch?

Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Six Source:Getty

By now we all know TJ McConnell has been terrific for this team. I don’t need to rehash it. But I do wonder if Carlisle considered rolling with McConnell down the stretch in game 1 after he saw the ineffectiveness from Haliburton along with his two quick turnovers.

The Pacers had built a 9-point lead in the 4th quarter with McConnell at the controls, and by the time he was subbed out they still led by 4. McConnell didn’t come back in the game until there was 12.1 seconds left and the Pacers were down 118-117. Also, important to note that during that time Jalen Brunson was spectacular.

Would Carlisle ever consider more of McConnell at the expense of somebody else in the lineup? Or do you roll with who got you to this point? It’s an interesting question, especially if Haliburton is far from 100%.

4. Can you keep Brunson off the line?

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game One Source:Getty

Well, can they?

I like Brunson a good deal, I think he’s been an underrated player for a long time and is just now getting is due. But, on the other hand, he’s celebrated for looking to draw contact much more than just playing basketball. James Harden does the same but gets crushed for it.

Anyways, he shot 14 FT in game one and made them all. Brunson getting to the line not only gets your guards in foul trouble, but it slows the game down and stops the clock…all things the Pacers don’t want to see happen. On TWC on Tuesday Carlise said it would take everyone to slow Brunson down and keep him off the line. I’m interested what kind of adjustment (s) the Pacers make for game 2, if there is one.

5. What about the officiating?

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets Source:Getty

Pictured above was lead referee in game 1 Zach Zarba. He’s considered one of the best, but his crew had a rough final 2 minutes on Sunday. This boils down to 2 questions… 1) will tonight’s crew call illegal screens early on and will they be consistent throughout and 2) will the Knicks continue to get the calls in crunch time?

Personally, I’d like to be done harping on the officials.  

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