Pacers HC Carlisle compares 'savant' Haliburton to former pupil Doncic

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Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle gushed over his two top players after Myles Turner and Tyrese Haliburton helped extend their winning streak to three games.

The Pacers ended the year on a high as they beat the Los Angeles Clippers 131-130 on the road in the opening game on New Year's Eve.

It continued an impressive run of scoring form, putting up 129 points in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, before notching 135 points to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Against the Clippers, Turner proved nearly unstoppable. The man who has led the league in blocks per game on three separate occasions was an offensive force, scoring a team-high 34 points on 11-of-17 shooting, hitting all 10 of his free throws.

He also hit a pair of three-pointers, dished three assists and snatched two steals, and while it was all Turner for the first three quarters, it was the Haliburton show late.

Haliburton reached the fourth quarter with just six points to his name, before exploding for 18 in the final period alone, finishing with 24 points (eight-of-13 shooting), 10 assists, seven rebounds and four steals.

In his postgame media appearance, Carlisle spoke about how exciting it is to watch his young stars excel in a playoff type of atmosphere.

"Myles Turner was spectacular in this game," he said. "He didn't get many rebounds, but he neutralised the boards – he kept their big guy off the boards.

"He was clutch all night, he punished them on the inside when they went small, he made big free throws, big and-ones – he played huge in this game.

"Tyrese’s fourth quarter was a monster. 18 [points] in the fourth, made just about every play you could imagine. Really just breathtaking stuff to watch.

"The building was absolutely alive. Today was another opportunity to play a playoff-caliber game during the regular season. [The Clippers] were loaded up, they had all their guys, and they really came to play. We had to put together a monster game to beat them – and we did."

When asked about Haliburton and his growth into a true team leader since arriving in a trade from the Sacramento Kings, Carlisle compared him to another young playmaker he has coached – Luka Doncic.

"[Haliburton] is a basketball savant-type guy," he said. "People like him, people like Doncic, people like Reggie Miller, they sense when their time is coming.

"He's resourceful, and he finds ways to help our team get the ball in the basket. Sometimes it's not him – sometimes he makes the play that leads to the bucket, or the pass that leads to the pass.

"But his will to win is spectacular for a young player, and he really is grasping everything that there is to grasp about the opportunity that he has here, and the responsibility that he has here.

"It's amazing to watch him continue to grow, grow and grow every single game."

Haliburton himself spoke of the challenge of facing a team that dominated the interior last time they met, and pointed out why Turner is such a mismatch problem for teams who like to play small.

"Last time we played these guys [Ivica] Zubac had a great game – almost 30 and 30," he said. "So as a competitor, and as a competitive team, we wanted to respond the right way.

"We attacked him early, we felt like we were getting after him… he's a tough guy to keep off the glass, but we were able to do that successfully.

"We made them play small, which is to our advantage, because we still feel we can run with a big on the floor because 'MT' runs so well.

"We felt like we dictated pace tonight, and usually when we dictate pace, we win games."

It is the fifth win from the Pacers' past six outings, improving their record to 20-17 to occupy the six seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Clippers (21-17) are sixth in the West.