Myles Turner has come back from his elbow injury looking determined to erase the first half of a season full of setbacks that hasn’t lived up to the high expectations many had for him during the summer.
The Indiana Pacers center is showing off all the goods that make him so intriguing over these past three games while also making strides in the areas that he’s still improving on.
After dealing with foul trouble throughout in his playing time off the bench against the Magic, Turner has averaged 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. His scoring even more impressive when he has only taken 31 shots total (10.3 shots per game) in the three contests and he’s doing his damage in a variety of ways.
In the first match-up against the Hornets this week, Turner was the ultimate stretch five against Dwight Howard, shooting a season-high six 3-point attempts and matching his career high of four made 3-pointers.
Turner was hitting on pick and pops and finishing swings of the ball around the perimeter all night, scoring 22 points in only 21 minutes off the bench.
His jump shot was giving Howard and his preference to drop way back on the pick and roll so many problems that it forced the Hornets switched him onto Thaddeus Young. While Turner was still hitting threes, including this one fresh after coming in off the bench, it also gave the Pacers a mismatch with Young.
Young sets up the play above with Howard dropping so far back due to the help defender looking to prevent his mid-range attempt, which left Turner wide open for another 3-point basket. Thad also took advantage of the Dwight match up late by just driving right around him.
After Turner torched the Hornets solely on the outside, the Memphis Grizzlies decided they weren’t going to leave him open on any pick and pops and switched every pick involving Myles.
This gave Turner opportunities in the post and the Pacers fed him early and often in the first quarter, leading to seven points and six rebounds. Instead of selling for his comfort shot in that fadeaway with smaller defenders on him down low, he repeatedly played into contact and was rewarded with trip after trip to the foul line.
After drawing three shooting fouls in the first quarter alone, then Turner used his patented Turneround. Instead of the opponent sitting on that fading shot and being ready to challenge it, the Grizzlies defenders were expecting Turner to play into contact again, making this shot an easier one.
Turner finished the game taking 12 foul shots with many of the attempts coming from fouls drawn in the post by drawing contact.
Making teams pay for switching on those picks is priority number one for Turner’s future development for Indiana, and this game was an encouraging sign with him forcing contact and not settling for the shot of least resistance. Without making team’s pay for switching, it would easier for teams to just take Turner’s offense out of the game since he gets nearly 40% of his plays from the pick and roll/pop and leads the league in points per game as the screen setter in a pick and roll with 6.2 points per game from that play type per NBA tracking data.
Turner also seemed to find his defensive rhythm again since returning to the starting lineup, showing that great rim protection to the tune of six blocks in the last two games.
In last night’s rematch against Charlotte, the defense was so focused on Turner when he popped at times that it led to very easy layups for Darren Collison like this one where Howard leaves the lane open to get back to his man.
And this one where the same thing happens once again.
When the defense has to worry about Turner this much, it makes things easier for everyone else. It’s no coincidence that many of the Pacers 3-point shooters went on slumps in January while he was out with an elbow injury. His presence creates space for everyone.
This play was probably his best over this 3-game resurgence. Turner catches the ball after the defenders have trapped Victor Oladipo and ball fakes to get the initial help off of him and then instead of taking what would be a good shot for him at the top of the arc, he drives in for a great shot with a layup and a foul.
He’s also been determined on the glass and has two consecutive double doubles since coming back into the starting lineup with 11 rebounds in each. He’s finding the right balance of when to get back on defense and when to attack the offensive glass.
The only thing you’d like to see more from Turner on offense is more opportunities to score in this stretch. There are still those maddening periods where the offense seems to forget his existence. Turner took only two shot attempts in the fourth quarter last night after scoring 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting in the first three quarters. Against the Grizzlies, it took six minutes through the third quarter before he had a shot attempt in the second half.
With only 10 shots per game, he’s going to have off nights where he doesn’t score a lot of points, especially during games when his jumper doesn’t fall and his attempts are scattered to the point where it’s hard to find a rhythm. Without getting more shots, rebounding like this will help him find more ways to contribute without scoring.
If Turner can keep up this stretch through the rest of the season, especially with being aggressive with mismatches in the post, the Pacers will have to find more ways to get him consistently involved.