Portland Trail Blazers guard Nik Stauskas got most of the attention during Portland’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, but Sauce Castillo wouldn’t have been able to do his thing without the supporting role played by Evan Turner. After a couple seasons in no-man’s land, in Game 1 Turner was everything Portland hoped he be when he signed in 2016. For that, he gets the first official “Things Dan Liked” review.
When Stauskas started to heat up, it was Turner who found him early in the clock and kept feeding him. Turner led Stauskas to his most productive night as a pro. From an observer’s standpoint, it’s a promising start. It’s not exactly a secret that Turner’s time in Portland has been...maligned? More than a few eyebrows raised when news out of camp was that Turner would be given more responsibility and the keys the the second unit.
On the flip side, Head Coach Terry Stotts has always wanted to put players in best position to succeed (within reason) and clearly with the investment Portland made in Turner in 2016, they need to get something out of him.
So, what exactly did that “something” look like against the Lakers on Opening Night?
Portland’s attack emphasized pace and tempo. Not running for running’s sake and certainly not pressing fast break chances- but instead getting down the floor quickly, led by Turner and the other 4 guys following suit and filling lanes before getting into their offense.
This led to easy opportunities off miscommunications by the Lakers, mismatches and the Lakers also forgetting that Stauskas is indeed an NBA player.
Take the first clip here. Turner pushes the tempo, just enough that the Lakers get caught in a cross match with Moe Harkless having a major size advantage inside.
Take a look at the shot clock and how early Harkless has sealed the defender on the high side. With Curry sinking into the corner, the help is too far away to offer anything of substance and even if he was- is he really going to leave Seth Curry for an open corner 3? Probably not.
This is all predicated on the unit putting an extra hop to their step, with Turner pushing the pace and being a willing and immediate passer. He didn’t wait, he saw the mismatch and threw a perfect post pass over the top that Harkless was able to take and walk into the rim for two.
Play number two- again pace and tempo. Push the ball early, fill lanes and then find the early open shot. The Lakers fail to get back, Turner pushes the corner, finds the trailing Curry and voila, 3-points. Thank you very much, see you soon.
It’s not rocket science. If Turner has the ball going downhill he’s much more of a threat and much more effective than if he’s standing in the corner as a spot up shooter.
While I don’t expect that Stauskas will drop 20+ a night or that Turner will have a season full of effective shooting and playmaking nights (he went 13 and 6 on 5/8 from the floor against L.A.) - it just goes to show the potential the Blazers have with Turner optimized, shooters on the floor and a little bit of tempo to their game.