The basketball world unanimously hailed the Pacers’ acquisition of Evan Turner in a buzzer-beating trade deadline swap with the Philadelphia 76ers for the shop-worn Danny Granger as another masterstroke by team president Larry Bird.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers in his debut game donning Pacer gold, Turner proved everyone right and showed pleasing flashes of things to come.
The former collegiate Player of the Year with the Ohio State Buckeyes felt right at home and contributed 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting as the Pacers went on to beat the Lakers, 118-98, and reclaim the best record in the league. Questions on how he will affect the Pacers’ chemistry were quickly laid to rest as Turner seamlessly fit snug like a nice pair of gloves and made it look easy, despite some pre-game nerves.
Upon entering the game, Turner received a nice ovation from the basketball-savvy Indiana crowd who gave the pleasantly surprised Turner butterflies in his stomach.
“It’s definitely cool, because sometimes in Philly I’d get booed,” Turner said after the game. “When the game started, I had butterflies, then I checked in, everyone was clapping, I had more butterflies. I was like, ‘just don’t air-ball’,” he continued.
It didn’t take long for his first basket as a Pacer to come as he swished a turnaround fadeaway jumper in the post over his defender. Soon after, he was picking his spots on the floor and knocking down open looks. Turner also showed his ability on the defensive end, something the defensive-minded Pacers surely require of him as they march into the postseason.
Used to being the man in Philadelphia, Turner is poised to thrive against opposing second units as the featured scorer on the Pacers bench. In his first game, Turner seemingly had some of the easiest looks he’s had in his entire career.
“Somewhat,” was Turner’s response to me when I asked him if this was the easiest he’s had to work on offense since turning pro. “It’s the first time I’ve been in the post in a while […] they (teammates) do a great job in screening, so it was definitely cool to see that in my first outing,” he added. Pretty sure going up against reserves, rather than starters, played a factor in it as well.
Not only did Turner show what he could do for the team, he also sparked a resurgence of sorts from the Pacers’ oft-criticized bench that had been struggling prior to his arrival. In his first game off the Pacers’ bench, the reserves racked up a season-best 50 points and cut the starters’ day at the office short for some welcome rest.
“He adds a lot to our game,” said Pacers point guard C.J. Watson who runs the show for the second unit. “He’s another person who can handle the ball, pick-and-rolls, create shots for himself and for others,” added Watson, who was the beneficiary of a Turner assist at the end of the third quarter, which he converted into a 3-point basket.
Even struggling back-up center Ian Mahinmi got into the act and gave credit to Turner for ‘making his life easier’ on the court. “He has a great patience in his game and he finds people, so for me and (Luis) Scola, that’s another great guy on our team that’s capable of giving us easy baskets,” Mahinmi told this scribe about Turner’s impact on the second unit which helped him post nine points, six rebounds and two blocks in one of his better performances of the season.
Dennis is on Twitter @dRealSource.