Since sliding into a starting role in late January, rookie Myles Turner has evolved from providing surprising production to becoming a legitimate option and playmaker for the Pacers down the stretch in close games. The team's burgeoning confidence in the rook's ability was on full display throughout the three-game road trip following the All-Star break.
It was Turner who really gave life to the comeback win in Oklahoma City when he drained his first career three pointer to tie the game with just under a minute to play. He then secured a rebound at the other end which led to a possession that Monta Ellis ended with another three-pointer. The script flipped in a hurry and Turner gave it the nudge it needed.
In Orlando, Turner scored the Pacers' final four points. With just over a minute left, the rooke kept the Pacers up two possession by draining a mid-range jumper off the pick n' pop that would impress David West and then eventually drained two free throws to seal the deal with less than a second to play.
In Miami, Turner was heavily involved down the stretch in regulation before fouling out in overtime. First he gave the Pacers a lead with a 10-foot jump hook in the post. After a defensive stop, Paul George went for a dagger three with quick shot in transition. The ball bounced but Turner swooped in to corral the high carom and quickly put it back to give the Pacers a three-point lead with a minute left.
The lead didn't hold and yesterday we went through the two missed opportunities late in regulation that also involved Turner. The Pacers are calling on the big rook to make big plays in big games. As Nate Taylor reported yesterday, Turner is fine with that role.
"I'm a confident player, man," Turner said after Monday's overtime loss to the Miami Heat. "That's all confidence in late-game situations. You can't be nervous. You got to go. So, I know if I get the ball and I'm put in the situation where I need to score, I'm going to go score. If I'm an option, I'm going to present myself and make myself an option for the team."
Turner and the Pacers return home to play the Knicks on Wednesday and with 26 games to go they are all big games. At least we know the rookie won't back down from the challenge.
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