Evan turns in a keeper as Sixers rout Celtics

Posted: March 08, 2012

ALL EVAN TURNER wants to do is play basketball.

In 76ers coach Doug Collins' ultimate scenario, Turner would play every game as he did last night.

A day that began in a bit of controversy surrounding the second-year player ended with Turner having his best game as a pro, scoring a career-high 26 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a 103-71 blowout of the visiting Boston Celtics.

It was an exclamation point at the end of a day that raised many questions about last season's No. 2 overall pick.

Yesterday morning on an appearance on 94WIP, longtime Daily News columnist Stan Hochman was asked by host Angelo Cataldi about Turner's inconsistent play. Hochman, playing the role of "Grand Imperial Poobah," said: "There's an explanation for Turner's inconsistent play, and one of these days, the team, with Turner's permission, will reveal it, and then the critics will back off."

When pressed further, Hochman would not go into more detail, saying the information was obtained off the record.

Before the game, Turner laughed off the situation to reporters, saying: "I heard it through the grapevine. I don't know really what to say. Everything is going fine for me. I don't have any problems. Not that I know of. I've just been trying to play basketball, trying to get my legs ready for big minutes. That's pretty much it.

"It's just basketball and going with strategy and trying to win. I was just shocked when people told me about it. I really didn't know, I just kind of laughed. I get to wake up and play basketball for a living, so I really don't have many problems."

Said Sixers coach Doug Collins: "I've got too much amount of respect for Stan Hochman. I've known Stan for 40 years. I find him to be one of the most credible guys I've ever been around. This guy is as good a journalist as there is. I love Stan. I'm just shocked that he would throw something out there like that and leave it open-ended."

Hochman issued an apology before the game:

"On Wednesday morning in an appearance on WIP radio as the Grand Imperial Poobah, I was asked if it was time to declare Evan Turner a bust. I have felt for some time that Turner was taking an unfair beating in the media and I hinted that there was an undisclosed explanation for his inconsistent performances.

"That was unfair to Turner and to the Sixers organization and I want to apologize to all concerned. Sixty-six games crammed into 123 days takes its toll on everyone. I will not reveal my source, nor the nature of what I was told, but it was wrong to say what I said.

"I would like to invoke the no-harm, no-foul rule."

After a game in which the Sixers could do no wrong against a tired, long-in-the-tooth-looking Boston team, none of that morning controversy seemed to matter anymore, not when the team turned in its most complete game in quite some time and expanded its Atlantic Division lead to two games over the Celtics.

"I just didn't worry about anything except playing," Turner said of his effort, which followed a horrific 1-for-12 shooting night in his first start of the season, Monday in Milwaukee. "I understand I'm going to have some good nights and some bad nights. As a player, as a pro, you understand that. Right now, it was a good night, and I'm just going to try to build off this and keep learning and keep being better."

He certainly will get his chance to do that. After the game, Collins said that he will stick with Turner in the starting lineup and that he likes the dynamic of having ball-handlers Turner, Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala on the court at the outset.

"Evan is a great leader," Collins said. "He's a guy who really talks out on the floor. He needs the ball in his hands. When he has the ball in his hands, he's a totally different player. Maybe Jrue didn't have it in his hands as much, and maybe Dre didn't with the three of them out there together, and that's the thing we're trying to figure out how we can do that and play comfortable where all three of those guys can play well.

"Evan's a point guard. At the end of the day, he's a point guard. The big thing about it is that we have to play an extended period of time with him and Dre out there together and that's what I'm locked into. Unless there's an injury, I'm going to finish the year with those two guys playing together."

It certainly worked against the Celtics (20-18), who came off consecutive overtime games and were playing the second of back-to-backs. The Sixers limited them to 35 percent shooting, held Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to 26 points total on 9-for-29 shooting and won every hustle stat there is. It was an advantage the Sixers knew they had, and gladly welcomed after having lost eight of the previous 10 games.

"We wanted to jump on them early," said forward Elton Brand, who had 18 points and nine rebounds, just missing his fifth-straight double-figure rebounding game. "We know how it is. We just lost to a pretty scrappy Milwaukee team after traveling, so we wanted to jump on them from the start."

With sub Thaddeus Young out with an upper respiratory tract infection, Collins pulled rookie Nikola Vucevic from the starting lineup in favor of veteran Tony Battie. Collins explained that he wanted more scoring pop off the bench. Vucevic responded, going for 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Lou Williams added 15 off the bench, while Iguodala totaled 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and Holiday collected 10 points and six assists.

But the story of the game, and the day, was Turner.

"Evan worked his tail off this summer to be a better basketball player, and he came back and he is a much better basketball player," Collins said. "When he didn't start, he was doing it all for the team and everything, and I know there was a part of him that was saying, 'I should be out there.' He didn't say that, but I know Evan; I've been around him. He has an extreme confidence in himself. Evan believes that he's the best player on our team, and that's what I want him to believe."

He appeared to last night.

Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com or @BobCooney76 on Twitter.

Read his Sixers blog at www.philly.com/Sixerville.


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