Turner's seasoning spicing up playoffs for Sixers

Sixers' Evan Turner tries to score in Sunday's game against Heat.
Sixers' Evan Turner tries to score in Sunday's game against Heat.
Posted: April 26, 2011

WHETHER THE question was asked of him at the beginning of the season, toward the middle or near the end, 76ers rookie Evan Turner would always start his response by lowering his head and shaking it from side to side a few times.

The question, or a variation of it, was: How has your rookie season gone for you?

Early in the season, Turner, and his coaches, struggled with finding the right position for the 6-7 Ohio State product. He prospered handling the ball, struggled playing off of it. He rebounded well at times, took the ball to the basket with strength and battled to find a shooting stroke.

Really, on the court, not much has changed with Turner's game. It's the mental aspect where he and his coaches have seen the growth.

Sunday, when the Sixers pulled out an 86-82 win over the Miami Heat to get to within three games to one in their best-of-seven series, Turner was as important as any of coach Doug Collins' players in securing the victory.

Turner scored 17 points, including a huge 10-foot runner down the stretch and the final two points of the game on free throws. While he was on the floor for much of the final quarter out of necessity due to Andre Iguodala's foul trouble, Turner's play made it impossible for his coach to take him out of the game.

Was that game a defining moment? Are we seeing the maturation of Turner at the most important time of the season? Perhaps, but most think it's just part of the process for him.

His play at times this season has warranted Turner to be relegated to the bench for long periods of time. Even as the playoffs started, Collins was still trying to figure out who would be that third sub coming off the bench behind Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams, and it appeared that Andres Nocioni had the upper hand on Turner.

Then early in this series, Turner opened some eyes with his defense, especially on LeBron James. In a Game 2 blowout at Miami, Turner single-handedly kept the Sixers in the game early with his offense and finished the night with 15 points and six rebounds.

After just a 7-minute stint in Game 3, Turner rebounded with Sunday's effort. Kind of a microcosm to his season, as up and down as a child on a new trampoline.

"You have to come ready and come prepared and be ready to do a lot of things," Turner said after yesterday's brief practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "In my case, I play a lot one game and the next game, not play so much. So it's important that I always stay prepared."

As head-scratching as this season has been for Turner, it appears he's more confused as to why he hasn't been able to do the things he did in college, which helped him win national player of the year honors last season. He knows he'll need to improve his shooting during the offseason, and he made a comment in the locker room the other day about how he has to "get his figure back" once the season ends.

But the signs that he has shown at times have been intriguing. He certainly can create for himself and teammates with the ball in his hands. He can be a very good defensive rebounder, enabling him to start the fastbreak that way. And he has an abundance of confidence, which he showed when he made that floater on Sunday after the team had missed its previous eight shots and trailed by six.

"I wasn't really aware [of his team's shooting slump] but I did know that we missed a few shots, but we were attacking. When you're attacking, and your back is against the wall, you want to keep fighting till the buzzer sounds.

"You just go for it. You can't really hesitate in those situations. Sometimes when you think, that's when you mess up."

Turner's performance in Game 4 wasn't anything startling to him, nor his teammates.

"I think he handles it well," said point guard Jrue Holiday of Turner's ability to overcome his inconsistent playing time. "He comes to every game and every practice mentally prepared, physically prepared. I honestly think he's prepared for any situation."

The situation now is still a dire one for the Sixers, as they face another elimination game tomorrow in Miami. But after Sunday's win and with three of the four games in the series very competitive, the Sixers, and Turner, are feeling good about themselves.

"You just have to take it one game at a time," Turner said. "You can't look at it like you have to win the next three games. We just have to worry about the next 48 minutes."

Six shots

Doug Collins brought the team in for a brief workout yesterday so they wouldn't "get intoxicated with the win" . . . The Heat took the day off . . . Should the Sixers win, Game 6 would be Friday at the Wells Fargo Center . . . Asked if Evan Turner thanked him for stepping in to help out during a brief fracas with Miami's James Jones, Thaddeus Young said: "He actually did, he said, 'I appreciate that, my dude.' It's cool. We're all teammates, so we have to be there for one another. We're brothers."

For more Sixers coverage, read the

Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at www.philly.com/Sixerville.

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