It didn’t take long for the Indiana Pacers to add a wrinkle to their offense with Evan Turner now in the fold.
With George Hill (shoulder) sidelined this weekend, Frank Vogel used Turner at point guard against the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz.
The Pacers don’t rely on Hill to run the point in a traditional way, but handing the ball to Turner on consecutive nights in close games down the stretch was certainly a gutsy call by Vogel.
“Turner gave us a big lift the whole game, but particularly down the stretch,” Vogel said after Indiana beat Boston 102-97 on Saturday night. “He handled some point guard duties, which he hadn’t done for us yet. We hadn’t talked about it yet. He stepped up.”
Turner hadn’t logged a minute at point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, but Vogel noted that Turner had experience handling the ball at Ohio State.
“Evan is as versatile as it comes,” Paul George said. “He filled right in and did a great job of playing point guard.”
Turner had 17 points, three rebounds and two assists without a turnover on 8-for-14 shooting against the Celtics. With the Pacers struggling to pull away, Vogel let Turner bring up the ball in the fourth quarter. He was on the floor for the full 12 minutes and was the de facto point guard for close to eight minutes.
“At that time it would have been the normal spot to take him back out, but he was the hottest guy out there,” Vogel said of when he slid Turner over to the point. “We know he has great versatility, as do Lance [Stephenson] and Paul. Any of those three guys can handle, so that’s a lineup we knew we’d use at some point.”
Turner scored ten points on 5-for-8 shooting in the final frame.
“I felt fine. Coach was pretty much telling me to run along on certain things,” Turner said when asked if he was comfortable in the role.
“David West was setting screens. He’s great coaching himself. I think I got to look at the film a little bit and see what I can do when things break down, but other than that it’s just coming down and playing basketball.”
C.J. Watson started in place of Hill in both games, but it was Turner that handled the ball in the final moments. In a narrow 94-91 win over the Jazz, Turner played most of his fourth-quarter minutes (6:04) without Watson on the floor. He had four points and two rebounds without a turnover.
After the Boston game I asked Vogel whether the bigger lineup had a future when Hill is healthy.
“Probably not, but I could see us at certain times, if Evan has it going. Sometimes if a guy is hot you’ve got to keep him out there,” Vogel said. “But I don’t see us having a steady diet of playing him over George [Hill].”
Paul George, who has played alongside Hill for the last three seasons, says Turner works as the ball handler because he isn’t asked to do a lot. He’s been with the team for less than two weeks and hasn’t mastered the entire playbook.
“We weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary,” George said in-between the wins. “We ran pick-and-roll plays and Evan is a great creator and decision-maker at the ball-handing position. Whether he’s on the wing or at point guard, he’s comfortable there and we’re comfortable with him there. I think it was a great coaching change.”
Turner performed well in the new role with his new team, but admitted Saturday night that he was shocked by Vogel’s decision.
“I thought Paul was coming in for me,” he said. “He put up [one finger] and I was like OK, I’ll take a one-minute break. And then he was like ‘No, you’re running the one.’ I was like OK, cool. I guess, ‘Good job coach, there will be a little something extra in your mailbox.’”