Two of the NBA’s brightest young stars will face each other Thursday night when point guard Tyrese Haliburton and the host Indiana Pacers take on forward Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.
Tatum, 24, scored a record 55 points in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game and was named the game’s MVP. He is averaging 30.6 points (sixth in the NBA), 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season.
Haliburton, 22, played in his first All-Star Game on Sunday. He’s Indiana’s leading scorer (19.9) and ranks fourth in the NBA in assists (10.1).
He’s on pace to break Mark Jackson’s franchise record for assists per game (8.7 in 1997-98) and could become the first Indiana player to lead the league in assists.
Haliburton scored a team-high 33 points and had eight assists when Indiana beat Boston 117-112 on the road in the first meeting between the teams on Dec. 21. The Pacers scored 42 points in the first quarter and led by 30 in the first half before fending off the Celtics in the second half. Tatum led the Celtics with 41 points in the loss.
This will be Boston’s first game since the interim tag was removed from Joe Mazzulla’s title and he was named the team’s full-time head coach. He took over as interim head coach after Ime Udoka was suspended during training camp.
Mazzulla, 34, an assistant under Udoka last season, is the NBA’s youngest head coach.
He appreciates what the Celtics have accomplished so far this season — Boston entered the All-Star break with the best record in the Eastern Conference. But he also stressed that the goal is to play better in the season’s second half.
“I do think there is a comfort level knowing that (the Celtics lead the Eastern Conference), but that was kind of my message to the guys,” Mazzulla said during the break. “That at the same time you can’t be too comfortable because when we get back, it picks right up. We have a responsibility to the work we put in to this point of the season to raise our level and play even better than we have been.”
Indiana’s Buddy Hield made six 3-pointers and had 27 points in Indiana’s last game, a 117-113 victory over Chicago. He broke Reggie Miller’s single-season franchise record for made 3-point field goals with his final 3-pointer in that game. He has 230 3-pointers with 22 games remaining.
“It’s the new NBA,” Hield said after that game. “You shoot 3s, and I shoot 3s at a high level. Passing a legend like Reggie in Indiana is a testament to hard work and my teammates finding me in the right spots.”
Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon will be playing in Indiana for the first time since the Pacers traded him to the Celtics last summer. Brogdon is averaging 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game and has emerged as a strong candidate to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
–Field Level Media