The Indiana Pacers are the first-ever runner-ups in the NBA In-Season Tournament. They put together a fantastic run to the final stage but lost to LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. Along the way, Tyrese Haliburton and his squad showed that they can compete at a very high level.
The Pacers are lighting the league up with their potent, top-ranked offense as Haliburton starts showing he can lead a winning team. Even though the Lakers were able to slow him and his team down for a night to take home the first NBA Cup, their run through the Tournament was very fun to watch.
After the game, Haliburton explained that the Pacers put forth a great fight to get to the tournament championship game. The 23-year-old guard also explained how the team has to get right back into the swing of things.
"We've done some great things to get here, competed against some really good teams and battled, and you can't let that happen for no reason."
Tyrese Haliburton on the run to the In-Season Tournament Championship game. pic.twitter.com/n1NUeDR5lF
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 10, 2023
“We've done some great things to get here, competed against some really good teams and battled, and you can't let that happen for no reason,” Haliburton said. “So, if you allow this loss to roll over, and we've got a four-game road trip coming up here, you gotta take care of business and handle it the right way.”
The Pacers' IST group featured the Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons. They defeated all four of those teams in Group Play before besting the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks in the Knockout Rounds. They may not have won the tournament and probably won’t win the championship this season but beating the four of the biggest foes in the East who could challenge for it is pretty impressive.
On top of showing that they’re capable of competing with the best, the tournament finale helped them see that physicality could be their biggest Achilles heel, which should help shape their approach at the trade deadline and/or prompt them to play first-round rookie Jarace Walker more.
The NBA was fortunate that a team like the Pacers was one of the finalists for the first In-Season Tournament. They play a fun brand of basketball and brought into the hype around the NBA Cup and the chance to go to Las Vegas. The competitive level they play is a great sign that their future is bright.