ANGELS ON THE HARDWOOD!?
The Philadelphia 76ers cruised to an easy victory over the Utah Jazz Friday night, winning back-to-back games for the first time since early February. Evan Turner – coming of the best game of his young career – turned in another stellar performance, scoring 16 points, grabbing 12 boards and dishing out six assists.
In 43 minutes of action Turner played good perimeter defense, attacked the basket consistently, recorded a handful of should-be/would-be assists, and impressively cleaned the glass against a very talented Utah front line.
The former BUST has gone from ineffective bench player to one of the Sixers best players, literally overnight.
I realize it's only been two games and that Turner's first start – a 1-12 performance in a loss against the Bucks – was far from spectacular, but the pedigree has always been there, as has the ability. This feels like a case of Evan finally being put in the best position to succeed and maximize his potential. As our man Derek pointed out on Twitter, Evan Turner was never meant to thrive in a limited role off the bench, playing off-the-ball. He was meant to have the ball in his hands, creating shots for himself and others, because that's what he did at Ohio State, and that's the player everyone envisioned with the number two pick, not a passive seventh man.
Whether he continues to score efficiently remains to be seen, because he still lacks a reliable jump shot, but what we know to be absolutely true is that ET is probably the best rebounding wing in the NBA, an above average defender who can guard three positions, a one-man fast break and a third shot-creator in the half-court offense.
The Sixers have been winning since the beginning of the season and seemingly atop the Atlantic Division since Christmas, but most of their success has come in spite of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner's development. As of two days ago, both players – who were dubbed the building block of this franchise – had unquestionably regressed as prospects. Jrue has made strides defensively and Evan has had moments as a member of the Night Shift, but neither showed significant overall improvement.
But now that Evan has been vaulted into the starting lineup, permanently, and played every bit like the 2010 National College Player of the Year, things have changed. Perspective has changed.
Winning was fun before, but with Turner as one of the main driving forces of the victories, it's been taken to another level. Fans are coming out of the woodwork to watch the Sixers again, because of Turner. And from watching the games on TV, you get a sense of just how badly the fanbase wants this guy to be a star.
It's still very early, but the Evan Turner era is officially underway in Philadelphia, and optimism is extremely, yet cautiously, high.
- This was one of the most complete games I've seen the Sixers play all season. I've never seen so many players take turns handling the scoring load. For a while it was Thad, then Lou, then Jrue, with a little Evan sprinkled in throughout.
- Jrue Holiday had a very effective fourth quarter and finished the game with 16 points, four assists, three rebounds, three steals and an uncharacteristic three turnovers.
- What can you say about Iguodala, really? He finished with 10 points, making all five of his shot attempts, 10 assists (to one turnover), seven rebounds, a steal and great defense to boot.
- Thaddeus Young finished with 21 points on 17 shots. He was stroking the mid-range J early on, fell in love with it, missed a bunch, then started taking the ball to the hoop again.
- Lou Williams was about as Boss as he's ever been, scoring 21 points on 10 shots. He visited the stripe 10 times.
- Jodie Meeks played seven minutes.
- Elton Brand's numbers definitely don't strike anyone as good: eight points on 13 shots, nine boards and three turnovers, but I thought Brand was a difference maker on the defensive end against Utah's loaded front court. He battled all night long, fighting for post position, blocking three shots and not allowing easy baskets.