In an unexpected twist, both figuratively and literally, Myles Turner was a late scratch for Wednesday night’s season opener against the Washington Wizards after suffering a left ankle sprain during an individual pregame workout. According to Yahoo’s Jake Fischer, Turner landed on the foot of a ball boy, resulting in the ill-timed injury. While not considered serious, the tweak is expected to keep the team’s longest tenured player sidelined for at least one week, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
“It’s unfortunate, man.” Turner said following Thursday’s practice. “Definitely not the way I wanted to start the season off.”
Without Turner, the Pacers surrendered 58 paint-points and ultimately downsized in closing time with a switch-everything and double-the-post lineup, featuring Jalen Smith at the five alongside Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Bennedict Mathurin, and Aaron Nesmith, who played 23 minutes in the loss despite missing the final three games of preseason with a plantar fascia injury. Nesmith only shot 1-of-8 from the field for the game, but what serviceable stretches on defense there were mainly aligned with his presence on the floor, as he quietly made an impact in the shadows.
For example, in order to combat the ability of Kristaps Porzingis to stretch the floor, Goga Bitadze and Isaiah Jackson each spent varying amounts of time assigned to off-ball wings, which allowed the team to switch on ball screens. By doing that, the aim was to keep the defense out of rotation against pop actions, while also enabling whoever was at center to maintain a smaller radius around the rim. Within that scheme, Nesmith wasn’t just active in preventing mismatches when Porzingis rolled to the post; he also was physical in pushing the towering big man’s pick-up point outside the lane and sitting on his jump-shot.
One of the "better" stretches for the Pacers on defense last night was when they cross-matched TT onto Porzingis and switched those actions.— Caitlin Cooper (@C2_Cooper) October 20, 2022
Allowed Goga to stay low off-ball, and Nesmith showed his experience with Boston in preventing mismatches w/ kick-out switches. pic.twitter.com/Vu70wpoHrP
Granted, this is a match-up specific wrinkle, but it was generally more effective than when they attempted to defend those actions in space. Plus, another side benefit to those cross-matches, with Terry Taylor or Oshae Brissett generally assigned to Porzingis as primary, was getting a glimpse at Jackson patrolling the weak-side in the role of roamer, which could be worth a closer look both with and without Turner.
Either way, after playing in drop coverage and icing side pick-and-rolls for most of preseason, what the coverage in the opener goes to show is that the Pacers still plan on being adaptable to their opponents and will likely need to for however long Turner is sidelined.