Turner Confident as Playoffs Begin

April 12, 2018 - Pacers center Myles Turner, teammate Victor Oladipo, and head coach Nate McMillan discuss Turner's slump at the end of the regular season and his mindset heading into the playoffs.

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Turner Confident as Playoffs Begin

April 12, 2018 - Pacers center Myles Turner, teammate Victor Oladipo, and head coach Nate McMillan discuss Turner's slump at the end of the regular season and his mindset heading into the playoffs.
Apr 12, 2018  |  02:15

Pacers On Facing LeBron James

April 12, 2018 - During their first media availability since the matchup with Cleveland became finalized, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and players Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson talked about how they plan to go about matching up with LeBron James.
Apr 12, 2018  |  02:33

Pacers Still Out to Prove Doubters Wrong

April 12, 2018 - Heading into their first-round series with Cleveland, the Pacers find themselves in a familiar position as heavy underdogs. But that doesn't bother them.
Apr 12, 2018  |  02:04

Turner Crucial to Pacers' Playoff Hopes

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

One by one, they're asked about Myles Turner.

One by one, they defend Myles Turner.

The Pacers' center is an obvious X-factor heading into their playoff series with Cleveland, and maybe their Y-factor as well. It's unlikely they can beat the Cavs without significant contributions from their starting center, contributions they got only once over the final 10 games of the regular season.

Turner averaged 7.3 points on 33 percent shooting and 3.7 rebounds over that stretch, during which he scored in double figures just once — a 24-point, eight-rebound effort against the Clippers in Los Angeles that reminded everyone what he's capable of doing.

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Otherwise every game was a struggle, including the final one against Charlotte when he asked to play so he could regain his rhythm and proceeded to hit just 1-of-8 shots and score two points.

Turner's teammates claim not to be worried.

"It happens," Thaddeus Young said. "You hit tough stretches throughout the course of the season. We felt during the course of the season it was kind of a drag once we clinched.

"He's fine," Darren Collison said. "Myles is a good player. Everybody has their moments. We all go through our little slumps. Myles, it came at the end of the season when he wasn't playing normal minutes. He'll be all right.

"There's no concerns," Al Jefferson said. "It's part of the game. He was dealing with injuries and it's a long season. But one thing I do know about Myles, the shots he's been missing he's made before, and he's going to make them again."

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So, there you have it. The question, though, isn't whether Turner's teammates still believe in him but whether he still believes in himself. One might wonder, given the way he finished the season, but he's given no hints of a mental slump in recent weeks. He's celebrated good moments with his teammates while on the bench during games and has been all smiles in the locker room following victories. He's not pouting, complaining or excusing himself from responsibility.

Turner seemed a bit taken aback by the line of questions following the Pacers' workout at St. Vincent Center on Thursday, but didn't duck any of them.

"It's been a tough season, but it's also been a fun season," he said. "Yeah, it's been tough maybe numbers-wise, but it's definitely the most fun I've had and the most engaged I've been in the season. I'm in a good spot going into the playoffs."


Myles Turner

The drop-off in Turner's production is there for all to see in black and white and has been read all over in the analysis of his recent play. His minutes per game (28.2), scoring average (12.7), field goal percentage (.479), free throw percentage (.777), rebound average (6.4) and blocks average (1.8) all are down from last season.

"The season wasn't necessarily a letdown for me," he said. "I didn't ascend as high as I wanted to, but I feel I still had a solid season for a solid team."

It went wrong for him from the beginning. While scoring 21 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, and blocking four shots in the season opener, he suffered a concussion that forced him out of the next seven games. He later strained an elbow after banging the rim too hard on a breakaway dunk against Milwaukee on Jan. 8 and missed the next nine games.

He missed three of the four regular season games against Cleveland during those two absences. That's probably irrelevant now but should offer some hope for the Pacers. They beat the Cavs two out of three times without him as well as the one time they had him. He'll practically be an added weapon in the playoffs, providing he plays up to his par.

And especially if he plays like he did over the nine games following the All-Star break. Turner, who claimed to be motivated by a teammate telling him he was "soft" — the source of that evaluation has never been revealed — had his best stretch of play then, averaging 16 points on 59 percent shooting (50 percent from the 3-point line) and 8.4 rebounds.

He was more physical then, and showed a greater willingness to score around the basket, such as in what essentially was a game-winning shot at Boston on March 11.


Myles Turner

"They need me to come out and be the aggressive Myles Turner," he said. "Go out there and rebound and block shots and be that defensive presence. Hit some shots as well. It's a tough task but it's what has to be done.

"I'm confident I can do it against any team."

Coach Nate McMillan gets credit from his players for his ability to see the game from a former player's viewpoint and communicate that to them. With Turner, he's alternated tough love and encouragement. Lately, it's been mostly encouragement as he tries to get his 22-year-old co-captain into a good groove.

"He's a big part of what we do at both ends of the floor," McMillan said. "We have confidence in him. We believe in him. We're going to continue to play through him."

For better or for worse. The Cavs have a small lineup, without a true post threat. That could be a blessing or a curse for Turner, depending on how efficiently he's able to score around the basket and whether he can stay out of foul trouble while defending on the perimeter against the likes of Kevin Love.

The opportunities will be there for him, and there's no better time for him to justify his teammates' faith than now.

"It's something I have to prove to myself more than anything," he said. "I guarantee one thing, I'm going to go out and work my ass off; that's what the playoffs are all about."


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.