The importance of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis closing a game together

Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Pacers beat the Bulls with both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis in the closing lineup. It seemed like just a game, but this symbolized more.

In the Pacers win over the Chicago Bulls last Monday, we saw a game that was much closer than anyone expected. With 6:34 to go in the contest, Indiana was up 81-75 and was trying to scrap and claw their way to a division win. At this moment, Jabari Parker threw the ball out of bounds for a turnover. The clock stopped. And then, so did the Pacers world. Nate McMillan subbed in Myles Turner for Thaddeus Young, which meant that Domantas Sabonis and Turner were going to be on the floor to close a game together.

Normally, I don’t pay much attention to what lineup McMillan closes the game with. He is solid at getting the right matchup on the floor at the end of games most of the time, and that allows me to be confident in whatever group of 5 he throws on the floor. But this is only the second time this season he has thrown out Turner and Sabonis to close the game. That merits more attention than the normal 5.

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

The first time it happened was in the loss to the 76ers on November 7th. But that one was different. The Pacers were down 17 points with under 6 minutes to go when they brought the pair of young bigs on the floor together. They didn’t do it for much strategy other than “let’s see if this unconventional group can make a comeback”.

But this time, the duo was put in to hold on to a lead. Thad was not playing great, but Turner and Sabonis were both having great games. They both had double-digit rebounds and Myles was one of the teams leading scorers. Normally, Young is a staple at the end of the game. But those two were both playing well enough to earn time down the stretch. And McMillan went for it.

And it worked.

Not one minute later, Turner threw down a dunk. Sabonis grabbed two rebounds down the stretch. Turner hit a clutch jumper that extended the lead from 3 to 5. And the duo played, as usual, astute defense, allowing 15 points on 15 Bulls possessions, a defensive rating of 100. That is a fantastic figure.

Domantas Sabonis Myles Turner Indiana Pacers
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 29: The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram #14 shoots as Pacers’ Myles Turner #33 and Domantas Sabonis #11 defend during their game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Thursday, Nov 29, 2018. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Digital First Media/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images) /

Obviously, the fact that the lineup worked and the Pacers won is really important. You play to win the games. But the fact that McMillan even went to the pairing in a close clutch game may perhaps be more important than the result.

The future of the Pacers clearly includes both of these players and Victor Oladipo. While it makes more sense right now to give Thad Young heavy minutes both overall and at the end of games, he may not be in the Pacers long-term plans. Eventually, whether next season or some other year down the road, the Turner-Sabonis pairing is going to be the mainstay frontcourt of the Indiana Pacers.

That is why it is so important that they A) were given a chance to close a game together and B) that they succeeded in that opportunity. That bodes well for the future of Pacers basketball. Now, the team can have more confidence in going back to this group at the end of games. We know it can work.

Next. Myles Turner has arrived…plan accordingly. dark

For what it is work, they cut the lead from 17 to 6 at the end of the Philly game in which they closed the game together. Something about the Myles Turner + Domantas Sabonis pairing works at the end of games. It may not be the Pacers best option down the stretch right now, but it could be one day. And the fact that it is working in the present day bodes well for the future.