'My goal is for guys to go scoreless': Knicks' Miles McBride expects better Tyrese Haliburton

INDIANAPOLIS -- For almost all of the 33 minutes and 58 seconds Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton played in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday night, Miles McBride was following him wherever he went.

The 6-2, 200-pound Knicks guard, former West Virginia star and Cincinnati native came off the bench for the first four games of the series. However, with New York short-handed thanks to the injury to OG Anunoby, the Knicks played around with lineups and eventually decided to go small and to put McBride on Haliburton in a full-court denial posture. McBride helped hold Haliburton to just 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting and five assists, and Haliburton was -22 in his time on the floor in the Pacers' 121-91 loss at Madison Square Garden.

McBride's approach was to try to keep Haliburton from ever getting the ball by pestering him for 94 feet starting whenever the Pacers inbounded the ball, and he face-guarded Haliburton regardless of where he was on the half court, not helping off in the least regardless of what was going on elsewhere in the play. As a result, Haliburton's touches were limited and he often got rid of the ball early in possessions and never got it back.

But after that performance, McBride knows that Haliburton and the Pacers are going to be gunning for him in Game 6 at 8:30 p.m. Friday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse with the Knicks up 3-2 and Indiana facing elimination, so he has to be even better than he was in Game 5.

"He's a great player and he's going to be more aggressive tonight, so I'm just trying to be mentally ready for that," McBride said after the Knicks' shootaround Friday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. "I gotta go up a level as we do as a whole team. I think if we do things the same way, we won't get the same result if we don't go up a level."

On-ball defense is one of McBride's greatest strengths so he has come off the bench to take on tough assignments all season, guarding the likes of Stephen Curry in the regular season and taking on Philadelphia's Tyrese Maxey in the Knicks' first-round series. That's prepared him for what it takes to guard players like Haliburton.

"Just not relaxing," McBride said. "The way they play, they're always on attack mode, and I think if you give them any little space, they're great players and they're going to take advantage of it."

McBride did take advantage of Haliburton's unselfishness, knowing that he's first a creator and a distributor before he's a scorer and that he wouldn't force the issue if McBride played him in full-court denial.

"He's not a guy, I feel like, that is going to take away from his teammates," McBride said. "I think he has a lot of confidence in his teammates being able to handle things. If I was denying, he was going to kind of go with the flow."

In Game 6, however, he expects the Pacers to do more to make things happen for him so that he can get more space to operate without having to simply force the issue himself.

"Definitely a lot more off-ball screening would probably be something they've talked about," McBride said. "A lot more cutting. A lot more moving just to get me off the body."

The Knicks expect to see a very different Pacers team in general back at home with their season on the line, and that obviously extends to Haliburton. He's had two relatively quiet games in the five-game series, but he scored 34 points in a Game 2 loss and 35 in a Game 3 win.

But McBride has lofty goals as a defender. He didn't feel like he met those in Game 5.

"Obviously, he didn't go scoreless," McBride said. "He was still impactful in ways. My goal is for guys to go scoreless and make a minimal impact on the game."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Miles McBride expects to see a more aggressive Tyrese Haliburton