SACRAMENTO -- 22 games into the 2020-21 NBA season and Tyrese Haliburton is proving to be problem. For the Kings, he's a good problem, but for their opponents, he's a problem they now need to game plan for.
“He’s kicked our ass every time we’ve played him," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said following the Nuggets' 119-114 loss to the Kings on Saturday at Golden 1 Center. "He has poise and confidence you don’t see from many rookies. He’s not afraid to take and make big shots.”
Malone has had a front row seat to the Haliburton show on three occasions this season and every time, the NBA's Rookie of the Month for December and January has gotten the best of his teams.
After Saturday's career-high 23-point outburst, the 20-year-old is now averaging 16 points per game against Denver. He's hit big shots in big moments against Malone's squad, including a 12-point outburst in the fourth quarter to help put the Kings over the top.
"I enjoy winning," Haliburton said with a smile. "I want to win in everything that I do. So if I can control that push for winning, that's what I'm going to do."
For Haliburton, this was his second straight game that he has set a career-high and also his first two games posting 20 points or more in the NBA. He's earning fourth quarter minutes and delivering almost every time he steps on the court.
On the season, Haliburton has played the entire fourth quarter eight times. The Kings are 7-1 in those games, with the only loss coming on the road against the Miami Heat by just a single point. He's not only making an impact, he's doing it with the game on the line.
Malone is taking notice, but he's not the only one. Haliburton's teammates are frequently asked about the young guard and they love what they are seeing.
"He's going to be one of the better guards in the league for sure, within the next couple of years, if not sooner," Hassan Whiteside said.
Haliburton was one of four Kings players to drop 20 or more on Saturday. Harrison Barnes once again put the team on his back in the third quarter to finish with 28. De'Aaron Fox added 24 points and five assists and Richaun Holmes chipped in a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double.
It was a team win for the Kings, but Haliburton is giving the team that punch off the bench that they need. Sacramento has now won three straight and six of their last seven. After a brutal 5-10 start, they've climbed back to the .500 mark on the season. It's not all on the rookie, but he's a big part of the recent surge.