Tyrese Haliburton wanted to play through injury but Pacers 'saved me from myself'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tyrese Haliburton said he did what he could to get back on the floor after injuring his left hamstring in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, but the Pacers wouldn't allow it. Though the All-Star point guard realized that decision was the right one, he said it still hurt to end the best season of his career watching from the bench as the Pacers suffered a four-game sweep at the hands of the Celtics.

"It's been really frustrating," Haliburton said. "It's been trash, honestly. You work so hard to get somewhere and something happens that's out of your control. Obviously that's frustrating for me. But what I've understood more than anything is that usually in the playoffs, the healthier team wins. They're a hell of a team. Boston's a great team. But obviously very frustrating for me and how I was playing at the time and how we were playing as a group."

Haliburton said that even though the injury occurred in the same leg as the hamstring strain he suffered on Jan. 8 which forced him to miss 10 games, it was not a re-aggravation. He also said that the initial injury still had an effect on him throughout the rest of the season though he played through it and still won All-NBA honors, breaking the 65-game threshold necessary to be considered.

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"It's a whole new thing," Haliburton said. "Same hamstring. Just a different spot. It's definitely frustrating. Anyone who watched me play understood that I was never really 100% after the first time dealing with that. But I wanted to be on the floor. I wanted to play. The 65-game rule was obviously a thing, but I wanted to play. I wanted to play basketball."

Haliburton said the new injury occurred in the second quarter of Game 2 when he was isolated on Al Horford. On social media, basketball fans and reporters focused on a clip of Haliburton grimacing in the third quarter while trying to defend Celtics All-NBA wing Jayson Tatum, but Haliburton said the injury had already occurred by then and his reaction was just evidence of how much pain he was in.

"I went to the back earlier because I got a chest x-ray because I landed on my back and they were worried about my heart," Haliburton said. "I got my leg wrapped up. I had an ace bandage. We did a bunch of treatment at halftime. I wasn't in the halftime meeting. I came back out and tried to play. That play was just, I think you saw that it was hurt, but it was definitely not the play when it happened. I knew when coach took me out in the third quarter, I had a good feeling that it was probably done. I went to the back before the fourth and I just knew. They didn't have to tell me. I could just tell that something was wrong."

Haliburton said he could barely walk the day after Game 2 and an MRI couldn't be conducted until the morning of Game 3 once the swelling had gone down. He felt better, however, and decided he wanted to try to play. As Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said in his pre-game press conference that day, however, that decision was taken out of his hands.

"I called my agents that morning and said, 'Hey, I feel good, I'm not going to lie to you guys, I really don't care what you say, I'm gonna try to play,'" Haliburton said. "There was obviously an organization-wide meeting with our front office, with agents, with everybody. They did what their job is, to protect me from myself and wouldn't allow me play Game 3. I understand the long-term implications of the chances of re-hurting my hamstring. I'm just very thankful for this organization from protecting me from myself."

Haliburton said he will mostly stay in Indianapolis between now and the beginning of training for the Olympics to rehab, but he doesn't expect that a problem for him as he compares to compete for Team USA.

"I have no concern," Haliburton said. "Basically, I have six weeks until I have to report to camp. I'll be in Indy for the majority of my treatment and rehab. Six weeks is a pretty long time. I didn't have that ever during the year with the previous injury, so there's no concern. The organization will be sending medical staff with me the whole time. I don't really have concern."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Tyrese Haliburton says hamstring injury was not a re-aggravation