You had to remind yourself this was Evan Turner’s first game with the Pacers.
Yes, it was that smooth.
Offensively, things were seamless with Turner on the floor, scoring 13 points in 26 minutes off the bench in a 118-98 victory over the Lakers Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Defensively, he rarely looked out of place – at one point, he even directed a crossed-up Lance Stephenson to the right spot on the floor.
“I thought Evan almost looked like he’s been with us since the start of the year,” Paul George said. “Lance (Stephenson) took to him, I took to him, Roy (Hibbert), David (West), everybody felt like he’s been a part of this team since we started.”
George wasn’t the only one pleasantly surprised.
“A great debut,” said C.J. Watson.
“We know what he can do,” said George Hill.
So confident was Frank Vogel in his new sixth man that, with the clock winding down at the end of the third period and Paul George on the floor, the coach let Turner run the 1-4 isolation play, and it did so to perfection, driving into the lane to draw a crowd and kicking to a wide-open Watson for a corner 3-pointer.
“He knows how to make the right basketball play,” Vogel said. “He’s not out there forcing action. The man with the basketball attacks to score until help comes, then we share it. It’s a pretty simple offensive concept and he’s pretty good at that one concept.”
It wasn’t a game-changing bucket, sending the Pacers into the fourth quarter with a 91-70 lead, but it was significant from this standpoint: it may have been the first time this season George was on the floor in that situation and not only did he not run the play, he didn’t even touch the ball.
Think about that for a moment, opposing defenses.
Even though this was his first game in Indiana, even though the face of the franchise was running upcourt with him, Turner was utterly nonplussed to get the call.
“They’ve played versus me a few times,” Turner said with a smile. “I think they understand I can handle the ball just a bit and I’m comfortable in that situation. I’ve done it so many times I kind of get surprised when I don’t.”
Granted, the opponent couldn’t have been much worse – the Lakers have Pau Gasol and a cast of pedestrians – but it wasn’t so much the outcome as the quality of the performance, where Turner was concerned.
In his first game as sixth man, the bench racked up a season-high 50 points. The Pacers were two free throws away from having nine guys scoring in double figures.
“I think he adds a lot to our game and makes us play a little faster,” Watson said, “another person who can handle the ball, (run) pick-and-rolls and create shots for himself and for others.”
Showing his fluid handle and a sharp mid-range game, Turner was effective in the post and out on the floor. It was just one game, but it couldn’t have been much more encouraging.
“Coach kept calling my play,” he said with a smile. “I wanted to make sure he felt comfortable doing it in the future, so I had to make a few shots.”
After the surprise of the trade sending Danny Granger to parts unknown once Philadelphia buys out the roughly $4 million remaining on his contract, and then the angst of losing a beloved and valued teammate, the Pacers needed just what Turner brought them:
Something to smile about.