'Just a bad game from me': Tyrese Haliburton knows he needs more aggression in Game 2

MILWAUKEE – Tyrese Haliburton was willing to take accountability but not talk specifics, perhaps for obvious strategic reasons.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle tried to shoo reporters away from questions about Haliburton's scoring as he has many times this season, but they were unavoidable after Haliburton played nearly 38 minutes in Sunday's 109-94 Game 1 loss to the Bucks but took just seven shots.

He made four to score nine points to go with eight assists, which wouldn't have been a bad stat line had he come off the bench and played 20 minutes. However, it's not optimal for a two-time All-Star and Olympian to have that little impact on his NBA team's offense in his first career playoff game.

Haliburton obviously looks to create for others first, which is why he led the NBA in assists with 10.9 per game. But even considering that, he still averaged 15.2 field goal attempts per game this season, including 7.8 3-point attempts, which he turned into 20.1 points per game. Those numbers dipped after the All-Star break as he was still finding his footing after a January hamstring strain and trying to make Pascal Siakam a focal point of the offense, but he still averaged 14.1 field goal attempts in the last 26 games, which he turned into 17.3 points.

He took fewer than 10 shots on just six occasions. Three of those came in double-digit victories, two in double-digit losses, and the sixth was the Jan. 8 game against the Celtics in which he strained his hamstring in the first half.

Doyel: Pacers have deer-in-headlights look in Game 1 loss

Haliburton credited the Bucks for keeping him quiet, but noted that, for as well as they defended, he still could have done a lot more.

"I thought their scout(ing) was good, but I thought a lot of it was more self-inflicted," Haliburton said. "They're a good team. They guard well. But obviously a lot of it was on me more than anything. I'll be better tomorrow."

Haliburton didn't want to delve far into what exactly about it was that he didn't like. When asked if he saw areas where he needed to be more aggressive, he simply said, "For sure."

"I just need to be better," Haliburton said. "Just a bad game from me overall. Give them all the kudos in the world. They have a good coaching staff. They have good defenders, physical guys. But I can be a lot better and I will be tomorrow."

The Bucks expect him to be, but they are proud of how they handled Game 1. Veteran guard Patrick Beverley, the 35-year-old with three All-Defensive Team selections and 66 playoff games to his name, got the primary assignment and Malik Beasley picked him up off the bench. Both defended him for 94 feet and neither gave him much room to maneuver.

"I thought Pat Beverley and Malik Beasley particularly did a good job of denying when they good," Bucks coach Doc Rivers said. "... I thought we jammed a lot. That was particularly pretty good for us. Not letting them get it inbounds and get it up the floor. That was really good for us."

Rivers said he was also pleased with the way the Bucks defended Haliburton's jump passes. The key, Rivers said, is to get hands up so that Haliburton has to throw the ball over people, which puts air under the pass and gives other defenders a chance to make a break on the ball.

"Just hang time," Rivers said. "We don't care if he jumps. We don't want it to be a line drive. All we talk about the whole week is hang time. If he throws it up, even if we don't get it, we can get there in time to cover the guy. But if he's throwing LeBron James, Magic Johnson bullet passes, no one's going to recover from that. So I thought our guys did a great job of getting our hands up, making him throw it over the hands. There was a couple, we showed it today, where this guy and then the next guy had the hands up, and he had to throw it over two sets of hands and that was good for us."

Though the Bucks allowed other shooters to get open on the perimeter, Haliburton took just three 3-point attempts and missed two of them. They didn't let him push pace nearly as much as he wanted to. The Pacers had a modest 12 fast-break points and just 40 points in the paint, both below their averages.

But they expect a different player in Game 2 on Tuesday.

"He's going to come out ultra-aggressive in Game 2," forward Jae Crowder said. "We have to withstand that and meet it with the proper discipline. And I think we will."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Pacers vs Bucks: Tyrese Haliburton vows more aggression in Game 2