NBA Hoops

Inside the growing rivalry between two of the best guards in the East

Inside the growing rivalry between two of the best guards in the East

Jalen Brunson vs. Tyrese Haliburton, two players already famous for being slighted, is a matchup ready for prime time that’s currently in prime time. And naturally for the two of them, it still might be getting overlooked.

The unfolding drama in this New York KnicksIndiana Pacers second-round series, which resumes with Sunday’s Game 4 and the Knicks ahead 2-1, has many shiny objects, including history, competing for attention.

There have been three high-intensity fourth quarters in which the winning team has made a comeback; a stream of injuries; nightly officiating complaints; and the playoff heroics of role players such as Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo and Andrew Nembhard that have turned these games into immediate classics.

Of course, Brunson and Haliburton also have had their fingerprints all over the series. But what they’re actually doing, engaging in an All-Star boxing match, has been getting lost in the rest of the noise. And it could be a preamble for a multiyear Eastern Conference battle: two lead guards on rising teams with a history longer than each of them has been alive.

“I don’t think it’s as much about me versus him as much as it is our teams versus each other,” Haliburton said after the Pacers pulled out a 111-106 victory in Game 3’s final minute on Friday. “He’s doing what he has to do for his team to win games, and I got to do that, as well, to give my team the best chance to win. So, it’s less about matchup and who’s scoring or who’s doing what. That’s for [fans] to talk about. We’re just trying to win games.”

Despite dealing with a right foot injury that has forced him to come off the floor in both Games 2 and 3, Brunson is averaging 32.7 points and 5.7 assists on 50% shooting.

The foot injury disrupted Brunson’s historic four-game run of 40-pointers in Game 2. But in Game 3, even with his mobility limited, Brunson made a clutch 3-pointer with 40 seconds left that tied the score.

Haliburton, for his part, came into the series battling back spasms and had an absent Game 1, scoring just six points. Playing in the postseason for the first time, he vowed to bounce back — and has. In Game 2, he scored 34 points with 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. In Game 3, he put up 35 points with 7 assists and 2 steals.

Haliburton got banged up twice Friday night, colliding on a…

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