Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton reacts after scoring during the first half...

Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton reacts after scoring during the first half of an NBA game against the Raptors in Indianapolis on Jan. 2. Credit: AP/Doug McSchooler

There is no organization in the NBA, maybe in sports, quite as locked down as the Knicks — with all of the franchise’s messaging coming officially out of one voice, the experienced, carefully worded and hoarse missives from coach Tom Thibodeau.

So when the Knicks won in Indiana last month and one of the Knicks network analysts, Wally Szczerbiak, ripped into the All-Star campaign of Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, calling him a fake All-Star and noting, “He’s a very good player. He’s not going to make the All-Star team. A guy like Julius Randle or Jalen Brunson will make it over Tyrese Haliburton. Tonight we saw why.”

Not surprisingly, Szczerbiak gave an on-air apology not long after that — having provided the sort of bulletin board material that Thibodeau and the Knicks desperately try to avoid, trying to prevent any sort of extra incentive or advantage for the opposition. And as Haliburton and the Pacers arrived at Madison Square Garden for their first meeting since those comments, Haliburton wasn’t exactly willing to let bygones be bygones.

Speaking on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Haliburton said that the comments spurred him on — to a point where there is little debate that he will be a part of the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

“For sure, it pushed me because after that game we want to play Boston and I had a really good game in Boston,” Haliburton said. “Then we went to Miami and I had my career high in Miami. All the momentum has been going in the right way since then. We’re playing really well, winning games. It just brought more eyes to me as a player that could’ve went positively or negatively. I think my team has rallied around me. We’re just playing really well since then.”

While Randle and Brunson have continued to play well enough to make their own All-Star case, Haliburton has been a revelation for the Pacers, averaging 20.3 points, 10.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds this season, leading the NBA in assists and ranking third in steals.

More important, he has been the leader of a surprising Indiana team that went from early season predictions of a teardown with players being shopped around the league to a team that entered the Garden a game ahead of the Knicks, sitting in sixth place in the East.

Is it the motivation put in place by the MSG broadcast?

“Tyrese is a great young player,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s going to improve and get better and continue to work and get stronger regardless of any exterior motives. External noise I guess is a better term. … But guys like that who are really special players, they find ways to get motivated, and if there’s external stuff that’s there, that’s great. But if there isn’t, they’re going to get better anyway because they’re going to keep working.”

Thibodeau had only compliments for Haliburton before the game.

“I think the size, the size is a great asset for him,” Thibodeau said. “Because of the vision that he has and his decision-making, it’s terrific, he puts a lot of pressure on you. He’s very unselfish. He has a great balance to his game, too. Creating easy shots, creating rhythm for his team. I also think he’s great at kicking the ball ahead, so that helps them play fast. And then he has the ability to shoot. Can play on the ball, off the ball, creates movement for them. He does a lot of good things for them that makes them an efficient offense.”

While Haliburton was looking forward to the challenge of playing the Knicks at the Garden and answering back on the court, he said he has not communicated with Szczerbiak at all. “No, I haven’t,” he said on the podcast. “He's reached out to people in my life. But no, I have not talked to him.” Asked if there was any interest in doing that, he added, “No. Zero.”