Myles Turner’s historically efficient night showcases his improvement this season

In a back-and-forth battle that featured 20 lead changes and nine ties in the second half, the Indiana Pacers gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle but they fell short in overtime by a final score of 142-138. One thing the Celtics never did figure out was how to stop Myles Turner, who scored 40 points on 13-of-15 shooting overall with 10 rebounds and a career-high eight 3-pointers.

It was an outrageous night for the Pacers center, who had the most efficient 40-point game in NBA history.

Klay Thompson scored 44 points on 110% true shooting in 2019 as the previous high.

“Just being aggressive,” Turner said on what led to his career night. “I think the 3s were presenting themselves the most tonight. I was just making the most of my opportunities. The guys were getting me the ball in the right spot. Fortunately for me it was a great shooting night.”

In this game alone, Turner hit a three off of a rhythm dribble after faking a pass, pumped faked Robert Williams III out of the picture and went into a one dribble pull-up, hit a deep triple after calmly letting some congestion vacate his space, hit another after cutting from the paint to the top of the key, hit his classic pick and pop, and one late while spaced to the corner.

He was hitting 3-pointers in such quick succession in the third quarter that as I was typing a tweet about one make he would hit another.

On the season, Turner’s averaging career highs in points (18), rebounds (8), field-goal percentage (54.3%), 3-point percentage (40%), and free-throw attempts (4.5) and is playing just under 30 minutes per game. While Lauri Markkanen or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander likely have the Most Improved Player award locked up, you can easily make a case for Turner to at least get some votes.

“Just not being one-dimensional. I think at times in the past few years I’ve kind of settled a lot on the perimeter, floated out there a lot,” Turner said of what he’s liked about his offensive growth this season. “I like the fact that I’m playing the way I know I can play inside and out. Teams try to go small with me, I can score in the post, get to the free-throw line, I can score in the mid-range, I’m a 3-level scorer, obviously I can shoot the 3. I think I’m scoring on all levels and getting the opportunity to see what I can do.”

Over the previous three seasons, Turner’s usage rate had hovered between 16% and 18%. But while his role had lessened on the offensive end from earlier in his career, he was still steadily improving his game, adding some off-the-dribble bounce to get more looks at the rim, upping his cutting awareness, and his field-goal percentage has increased every season since 2019-20. Most impressively, however, with the biggest offensive load in his career at 21.9% usage this season, his efficiency has risen to elite levels. Turner has the sixth-best true-shooting percentage in the league for players that have at least an 19% usage rate. The company he keeps on this list is just a collection of current All-Stars and some of the best players in the world.

The other half of the Turbonis duo also appearing on this list shows how much that trade has benefited both players. Sabonis, surrounded by shooting and paired with an All-Star guard and speed demon in De’Aaron Fox, is also having a career-best season in true-shooting percentage and Turner, paired with one of the best passers in the league in Tyrese Haliburton, is now free to play the center position on the both ends of the court with more spacing than he’s ever had in his eight seasons with the Pacers.

Beyond the career-high eight threes against the Celtics, Turner took advantage of mismatches by scoring over Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum in the post and added a couple offensive rebound putbacks. Taking advantage of smaller players in the post has been a strength of Turner this season as he’s in the 79.9 percentile in post-ups according to Synergy data on, scoring 1.09 points per possession on 1.9 post-ups per game. Among players that have at least one possession per game in that play type, he’s 13th in scoring efficiency and 12th in free-throw frequency. He gets free throws on 22% of his post-ups.

While the team has struggled to win games since starting the year at 23-18, Turner’s impact has remained positive throughout. He’s the only player on the team in the rotation with a positive net rating on the season at 0.5.

The Pacers were fortunate to be able to creatively re-sign Turner to an extension that allowed them to both provide adequate compensation for Turner and keep him on a team-friendly salary over the next two years. They might not be ready to win now but he should be an important piece when they are.


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