Myles Turner needs to repeat what worked for him in Game 1 because the Indiana Pacers can’t beat the Cleveland Cavaliers if he is inconsistent.
Myles Turner scoring 16 points and grabbing 8 rebounds won’t be remembered as one of his great playoff games, but it was exactly what the Indiana Pacers needed from him to win Game 1.
With a cold-stretch that was at least as old as the month of April — and maybe a bit longer — fans feared Turner wasn’t going to show up in Game 1. They didn’t need a great game from Myles, they just needed the version of him that appeared after the All-Star break.
Turner’s performances throughout the season spiked up and down as much as the mention’s on the 8 Points, 9 Seconds Twitter account that demanded trading Turner away or for Domantas Sabonis to start in his place. These spikes can make him one of the most frustrating young players in the NBA right now.
That’s because the flashes of greatness tantalize. When he scores 20 more points and does it without wasting shots, it’s easy to see what he can become. Indiana is 8-4 in those games this season, and it could make the Pacers a 60 win team if he did that night in and night out.
But he isn’t there, not yet. But he doesn’t have to be. He just needs to do the things he did in Game 1 and the Pacers can shock the world by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Turner doesn’t need to change his game and be a paint-patrolling center that beats you with power. Turner just needs to hold his own while playing his own style.
Myles Turner grabs his fair share of rebounds
One of the things that frustrate the most with Turner is his rebounding. He’s a 7-foot tall center, but he is an average rebounder at best. That didn’t change in Sunday’s game, but he wasn’t giving up too many contested rebounds. He wasn’t getting bullied.
The Cavaliers won the rebounding battle 44-42 and Cleveland’s top 4 rebounders grabbed 36 of those, but Turner wasn’t on the court for all of them, either. There are only four or five you could argue Turner had a real chance at but did not grab.
One reason why Turner isn’t grabbing many of those, especially on defense, is positioning. Often, he is up high near the 3-point line to set screens and hit long-distance shots. When he is up there, he leaks out to the defensive end as the shot goes up. This happened all season, but against the potential Flying Death Machine that is a Kevin Love outlet pass to LeBron James, it is critical that the Pacers get back.
Indiana broke up at least one attempt at this thanks to this strategy. It was Victor Oladipo that got the steal in this case, but Turner would have been there to at least contest the attempt had LeBron got his hands on the ball.
Regardless of the particular outcome of this play, there is a very good reason why Turner isn’t crashing the defensive glass, especially when out of position. If you discourage Love from attempting these passes, you cut down on easy fast break points. And in a game where the Cavaliers never got into a shooting rhythm, taking away easy points kept them from picking up any momentum. This is why the Pacers were ranked 6th in transition defense in the regular season.
As far as the eight rebounds Turner did get, he fought for a few and those are the ones that matter. Turner doesn’t have the strength to beat and bully his way for rebounds all the time. But as long as he grabs a few of the non-freebies that are in his orbit — and doesn’t give up too many to the Cavaliers — the Pacers are in good shape.
Keep on scoring
This series Turner’s starting off with a solid 6 of 9 shooting performance. Throw in a 3-pointer and 3 of 4 from the foul line and you have 16 points. That wasn’t the story last season, as it took until Game 4 to get his offense going. In the previous two playoff runs, Turner was a 45.2 percent shooter that averaged 10.5 points. Enough to avoid heavy criticism, but not enough to win games.
Turner took half of his shots from within 12 feet on Sunday, which was a bit of a change over the past two playoff runs. Turner takes mid-range shots because he can make them, but he made more of an effort to get closer to the basket in Game 1. He was rewarded with a 3 of 5 shooting performance from that range.
While playing out of the post isn’t something Turner is known for — he only takes a shot or two out of it a game — he is actually an above average scorer from there. That doesn’t mean he can bully his way into the paint, but he can use both his size and finesse to his advantage.
His shooting forced Love to hurry out to cover Turner after setting a screen, Myles positioned himself and feigned a step toward the paint as Kevin repositioned. The tiny bit of room created was enough for Turner to comfortably put up a shot while Love was unable to properly contest.
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It wasn’t any better for the Cavaliers when the Pacers created a mismatch with Larry Nance Jr. Turner puts his body into Nance just enough to force him to back off, creating room for another mostly uncontested shot.
Turner isn’t built to beat down his opponents, but he is still big enough to threaten opponents when he sets up down there in the post. He can’t club them over the head, but if they give him any space to shoot, there’s a good chance they’ve cost their team points.
Outside of LeBron, there isn’t a great post defender on the Cleveland roster. Turner versus Love or anyone else in the post is matchup slightly in favor of Indiana.
But it’s worth remembering the post is still one of the worst ways to try to score in the NBA. Outside of Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Jefferson, and LeBron, the rest of the players that go to the post the most often score less than half of the time. That doesn’t mean Turner or anyone else should avoid it entirely, but there are limits to what he and many other players can do down there. It’s a tool, but it’s better to have a full toolbox instead of just one really big hammer.
Thankfully for the Pacers, he is enough of a threat in the low post that it isn’t a waste of time to let him work. Even if he doesn’t play out of the post, Turner getting closer to the basket and avoiding more questionable mid-range shots is a win for Indiana.
With Myles’ 47.9 percent shooting percentage, it’s easy to ask why he doesn’t get the ball more. Maybe he should, but Myles scores without needing the ball in his hands all the time. The Pacers could stand to give him a few more chances to shoot the ball, but what matters more it making sure Turner is taking good shots and not forcing the ball to him.
A consistent Turner is key to winning the series.
Myles Turner is 22-years old and a ways away from reaching his peak as a professional basketball player. While Indiana doesn’t need him to start scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Maybe he gets there one day, but that’s not what the Pacers need now.
Indiana needs Turner to shake off the inconsistency that’s permeated his last two seasons. It’s the only reason anyone would want to bail on one of the best players under the age of 22. This season didn’t go as expected. That could be due to his injuries, the changes to the team, or any other reason you conjure up. It’s a valid criticism of his game, but it shouldn’t obscure his contributions to the Pacers.
But the Pacers need another solid game from Turner. As long as he scores in double-digits and takes Love and Green to task, then Indiana has a good chance at winning Game 2. That takes pressure of Oladipo to play hero ball. It allows Thad to focus on defense instead of picking up Turner’s slack. The Pacers just need Turner to hold his own. That’s all they need from him.
Just be yourself, Myles Turner. The Indiana Pacers don’t need you to be anyone else.