Evan Turner Debuts for Indiana Pacers, Must Improve Defense

Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports

Last week’s trade deadline in the NBA didn’t feature any “blockbuster” trades, thus leaving the Evan Turner acquisition by the Indiana Pacers as an extra loud six on the Richter scale. The former Philadelphia 76ers‘ swingman debuted on Tuesday night, as Indiana blew out the Los Angeles Lakers. While he got more and more comfortable in the offense as the game went on, his defense left a lot to be desired.

Turner entered the game late in the first quarter at the two-spot for Lance Stephenson. He proceeded to hide in the corner for a few possessions until a timeout was called. Playing alongside starters George Hill and Paul George, “timid” would be the best way to describe him. Then, staying primarily on the left baseline, he started to get more aggressive. Turner scored his first bucket posting up the smaller MarShon Brooks on the block. Moments later, he found himself alongside Stephonson and a fresh C.J. Watson on the perimeter. His next couple of plays on that left side didn’t go as well. He drove baseline into a Chris Kaman rejection, followed by a clanker from the deep left corner. All the while, he was letting Brooks waltz into the lane on the other end, either drawing a foul on him or his back line defenders. These weren’t pick-and-roll plays, where one may blame the new team defensive schemes. These were regular “stay in front of your man” plays. When the matchup switched to Kent Bazemore, it was pretty much more of the same on that end.

Turner’s defense did improve once he began to move around on the offensive end. After being stuck on the left side for a number of plays, Evan began to migrate. He hit a sweet jumper up top off of a zipper cut, the kind of play that probably made Mike D’Antoni smile. With the bigger Wesley Johnson entering the game, E.T. continued to find freedom. After missing a passive pull-up jumper on the fastbreak, he forced the issue on the next two plays. He hit a turnaround jumper on the right block (over two defenders), then lowered his head to take the ball down the lane (bobbled it), ending up with a layup. While the latter was a dubious play, it looked good in the boxscore. In a close first half, Evan tallied eight points (4-of-7 shooting), but little else (one steal, one rebound, zero assists).

By the time Turner checked into the game in the second half (quite a bit later in the third quarter than he did in the first), the game was already approaching blowout status. Nevertheless, he worked his way into both the team offense and team defense. Hitting Watson for a big three-pointer to end the third (on bad Laker defense) was a definite crowd-pleaser. He used the rest of the half to get into the flow, rebounding the ball and finding rhythm spots in the offense (mainly pull-up Js and post-ups). 

Evan finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists. While it may look good in the boxscore, Pacer video coordinators will have their work cut out for them tonight. Of the five Lakers in double-figures, three of them (Bazemore, Johnson, Brooks) were guarded by Turner for stretches. Of those two, Kent and Wesley were the highest scorers (23 and 13, respectively). Evan’s individual defense needs to improve if he’s to play significant minutes for Frank VogelPaul George was candid with the NBATV crew after the game: “they don’t play as much defense in Philly, so he (Turner) was probably worn out.”

That defense will be tested going forward, as I expect to see more and more minutes in the backcourt for Evan. Vogel said he liked the chemistry that he and Lance showed together in practice. A guard trio of Hill, Stephenson and Turner would make for a super-sized version of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons.

With that kind of backcourt size, Phil Jackson is somewhere salivating.

Martin Knezevic is an NBA Regional Scout who covers the Los Angeles Clippers for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @NBAKnez. Also, add him on Facebook and Google+

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