PacersrecaP #7: Chris Duarte breaks through his slump, the predictable patterns of Myles Turner

The Indiana Pacers lost the game, but Steve Nash lost the war. After fighting back to tie the game at 100 after being down 48-24, the Pacers couldn’t quite finish off their comeback against the Brooklyn Nets, who won by a final score of 116-109, split the miniseries, and promptly fired their head coach the next morning.

Back to the classic formula for the Pacers (3-5) season in this one: fall behind, keep fighting, make a couple big runs, never quite take the lead, eventually lose the game. It’s a script that would be frustrating in a typical season, but with the team focused on growth and development of their young players it has made for an entertaining start to the year.

#1 Chris Duarte breaks through his sophomore slump

Second straight game with a Pacers guard setting a career high against the Brooklyn Nets. Last time, it was rookie Bennedict Mathurin. This time, it was second-year player Chris Duarte, who scored 30 points and topped his debut 27 points that opened his rookie season against the Hornets. Duarte had struggled to start the season with his season-high before this at just 12, he had only shot above 37.5% in one game all season and never better than 44.4%.

His 10-of-15 overall and 5-of-10 from deep shooting performance raised his season shooting splits to a respectable 40.6/35.1/91.7 and his points per game is at an even 10. Before this game, his splits were 33.3/29.6/100 and his per game average was just 7.1 points. One good game this early in the season served as a slump eraser for his numbers. This game was a sight for sore eyes for Pacers fans, who in the first half of last season, were consistently treated to solid Duarte outings. 

After missing a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, it felt like Duarte’s sophomore slump was going to continue for another game. Then in the second quarter, Duarte hit a 3 in the corner where the ball rolled around the rim like one of those coin vortex funnels that are apparently sometimes branded as Whirl-A-Wish. If Duarte wished for the law of averages to finally swing his way, that wish was granted. Duarte only missed two shots in the second and third quarters: a half-court heave to end the first half and a 3 that was blocked by Nic Claxton. He hit four more 3-pointers on the night beyond the wish, got to the rim and finished, and earned his way to the foul line for six attempts which is as many as he had all season.

“We was [sic] looking for him,” forward James Johnson said to the Indy Star. “Most times, when guys are hot like that, they hunt (shots), but we were out there hunting for him. Finding him, trying to get him going.”

He and Royce O’Neale were going back and forth at each other after O’Neale committed a hard foul on a Duarte drive with the refs intervening after a Duarte foul on the next possession where Duarte looked to be saying, “I’m just playing hard!” when the refs went to say something to him. O’Neale looked to say something to Duarte immediately after a late tip in in the third quarter but Duarte answered in the best possible way: draining a 3-pointer from Manhattan at the buzzer.

Duarte won the personal battle with ease as O’Neale scored just 8 points on 9 shots for the night. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for the 🥑. As a 25-year-old, he’s kind of short on development time compared to the rest of his inexperienced teammates. Aaron Nesmith had played better than him to begin the season before the Nets game and while he’s been in the league longer, he just turned 23. Duarte’s minutes are down from 28 per game to 21 so far this season, so it’s important for him to get through this slump to continue to earn playing time with this crowded guard rotation.

#2 The predictable patterns of Myles Turner

Myles Turner said a lot of things to the media before the Nets game. First, an appearance on The Woj Pod where he openly discussed the realities of his situation and dove into hypotheticals perhaps a little too eagerly. Then, he did an interview with Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype before the game but it didn’t come out until the next day where he proclaimed his happiness with being in Indiana while asking people to listen to the entire podcast and not just look at the quotes out of context.

But neither of the main takeaways from these interviews are the unfortunately predictable pattern that Myles has developed in the last few years. Far too often, fresh off of a big performance, Turner likes to talk himself up but then he follows that performance and his talk with absolute duds.

“From a personal standpoint, this is something that I want people to get accustomed to,” Turner said after scoring a career-high 40 points against the Wizards in the second game of the season last year. “I think this is the way I can play, night in and night out.”

His next two games? 4 points against the Miami Heat and 5 points against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Later that same season, he told The Athletic that he wasn’t valued as anything more than a “glorified role player” and that he wanted more opportunity.

A few nights later he scored just 6 points against the Golden State Warriors as he shot 1 for 10.

This season, once again in his second game of the year and against the Wizards, Turner scores 27 points, adds 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. And after doing those interviews above, he laid an egg against the Nets, scoring 7 points on 2-of-8 shooting and adding 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 4 turnovers. Turner got benched with just under three minutes remaining after his final turnover where he committed an offensive foul trying to post up inside against O’Neale.

It was about as awful of a look as you can have coming off of that podcast. But that’s widely been the pattern for him lately, have one huge game, talk a little too much, and crash back down to Earth with his inconsistent play.

I will say that Turner really didn’t start off the game all that poorly. He was making great reads and finding open teammates in the corners, moving the ball, did his block thing, and had both of his made field goals inside in the first quarter. 

It was the start of the second half where it all went immediately downhill. On the opening possession, Turner was smothered at the rim by Kevin Durant who prevented a dunk. Myles never recovered from there. His next offensive play resulted in foul shots and he airballed the first free throw. He missed all of his shot attempts in the second half and had three of his four turnovers. In 21 minutes on the night, the Pacers were outscored by 20 points with him on the floor.

After he was subbed out by head coach Rick Carlisle with 2:50 remaining, the camera stayed on Turner during the timeout as he pulled at his jersey looking like he was contemplating tearing it in half and mouthed expletives, clearly feeling both the weight of his confident words in his recent interviews and his upcoming free agency.

“Your play controls everything. I think that’s the biggest thing for me, which is to come out and perform,” Turner told Scotto at Hoops Hype. “You can do all the interviews in the world you want  … I’m going to write my own narrative at the end of the day. I think the best way to do that is with my play on the floor.”

Hopefully, Turner can take his own words to heart and let his play do the talking more often and not get too high off of any one single game or too low off of a bad moment that leads to him spiraling down like he’s Keanu Reeves in The Replacements living his fear of quicksand.

One of Turner’s flaws that may cause some of his inconsistencies is the lack of contact he makes on his screens. Nekias Duncan of Basketball News wrote before the Nets game that among 53 players that have set at least 70 on-ball screens, Turner ranks 53rd in percentage of screens that actually generate contact. In his first two games, just 33.8% of his picks made contact with the defender. 

Now, some of these plays may be Turner slipping the screen which would be a purposeful play to not make contact with the defender but far too often Turner’s too anxious to getting rolling towards the basket and leaves his ball handler in a poor situation and creates no advantage for his teammate not does it give them an opportunity to find Turner in an advantageous position.

Stray Observations:

  • This game felt like a playoff game. Playing the same team and them being desperate had a lot to do with it, but the Nets played physically too. Pacers likely thankful that they have three days off following that one as Isaiah Jackson left with a knee injury, Bennedict Mathurin looked like he injured his wrist on a fall momentarily, and Tyrese Haliburton was running awkwardly for a bit after being inadvertently kicked in the shin.
  • Haliburton struggles with the increased defensive pressure. After he was kicked in the shin, Haliburton had just two more points on the night and only 11 total. He had season-lows in both points and assists (5) while having his worst night with turnovers (7). It was a rough game for the Pacers leader who became a bit too passive in the second half.
  • Mathurin’s body control is unbelievable. He finished three buckets while getting fouled inside in this one and each where impressive. Hopefully his wrist is alright after one foul where he finished with his left-hand and landed on his right, he airballed the free throw attempt but stayed in the game and never seemed to be bothered by it again. Mathurin followed his 32-point onslaught with a solid 16 points in 22 minutes.
  • James Johnson was +14 in this game and had some really nice moments including a coast-to-coast play where he split two defenders and then dunked but I just don’t want him to be getting minutes over guys like Terry Taylor and Oshae Brissett. He does seem to be a fantastic locker room presence and part of him playing may have been his familiarity with Kevin Durant, but he also gave up big backdoor cuts to Durant by overplaying him on the perimeter and fouled out in 18 minutes.
  • Edmond Sumner played and the Nets won. Coincidence? I think not. 

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