ET Blossoming into Reliable Defender for Boston

INDIANAPOLIS – Evan Turner has received much praise for his contributions on the offensive end of the floor this season. In that half of the court, he has served the Boston Celtics as a consistent facilitator, dazzling ball-handler and flashy finisher.

Because of that impressive offensive repertoire, the swingman’s defense is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be, however, as his greatest improvements this season have occurred on the defensive end of the floor where he has provided non-stop hustle.

Turner had a slightly below average defensive rating of 103.2 points allowed per 100 possessions last season. That placed him ninth on the team in that category among players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game. Turner’s rating has improved significantly this season to 99.2, which gives him the third-best mark on the team, behind Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart.

This morning, prior to taking on Paul George and the Indiana Pacers, Turner was asked what changes he has made to his game to improve so immensely on the defensive side of the ball.

“The biggest thing is just body position, getting my work done early and staying into it,” he said ahead of Boston’s shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “I think sometimes I get my mistakes out of the way in practice and I try my best to limit my mistakes and talk, you know, be accountable and be there for my teammates as much as possibly defensively.”

Turner’s coach, Brad Stevens, believes his selfless defensive approach is something that he has gained through his years of experience in the league.

“He understands that what he does on the defensive end impacts winning,” said Stevens. “He’s had really good coaching prior to getting here. When you think about his time in Philadelphia with Doug (Collins) and Brett (Brown)… Frank Vogel (in Indiana) for a couple of months too. These guys are good coaches that really coach the defensive side of the floor.

“So it’s a guy that’s 27 years old that’s figured out how to best position his body, use his size appropriately, guard quicker guys, guard slower guys, and figure out what his strengths are in each matchup.”

Turner’s upcoming matchups are as difficult as can be. Paul George is one of three All-Star swingmen that he and the C’s will face during the next four days. They will also host Kevin Durant and the Thunder on Wednesday before heading up to Toronto on Friday to face DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors.

Given that Boston’s defensive stalwart Jae Crowder will likely miss the next couple of weeks with a sprained right ankle, more pressure will likely fall on Turner in these elite matchups.

By the same token, Stevens explained that the C’s will have to take a team-oriented approach against the trio of stars they are about to encounter.

“Nobody can guard Paul George by themselves, or Durant tomorrow, or DeRozan on Friday; it’s just not feasible,” said Stevens. “I think it’s gotta be a group effort, it’s gotta be a team effort, but we’ve got a number of guys that are going to be smaller – Evan included – than those guys, so that’ll be a challenge to utilize what advantages they have by playing lower on cuts and those types of things.”

Turner, who seems to be the most viable option to start in Crowder’s place at the 3, understands that he will receive loads of help from his teammates with these upcoming All-Star matchups. That being said, he will certainly be responsible for carrying a heavy load in shutting them down, and he believes his experience will help him in that regard.

“It’s not my first year playing versus them,” Turner said. “I’m definitely familiar with their game, and these guys are so good, so the biggest thing is trying to make the shots tough on them and try not to make them so efficient.”

Not many opponents of George, Durant and DeRozan have been able to do so. Given that Turner and the C’s will face them during three consecutive contests makes the task all the more challenging.

Turner is certainly up for that challenge, however, as he will look to continue to showcase his defensive improvements against some of the best the league has to offer.

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