The marquee game on the Boston Celtics’ schedule this week is the final visit of the season to TD Garden by the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers, who have a new weapon to display Saturday night in Evan Turner.
Turner was the biggest name to move before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. Indiana sent Danny Granger and a 2015 second-round pick to Philadelphia for Turner and forward/center Lavoy Allen. On paper, the move appears to be a big upgrade for the Pacers. Granger used to be an excellent player before injuries hit. He was averaging 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 35.9 percent from the field for Indiana.
Granger was limited to five games last season because of injuries and wasn’t part of Indiana’s postseason roster as the Pacers pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in the East finals. The Sixers wanted to get something for Turner before he becomes a free agent this summer, and they can buy out Granger, who doesn’t want to play in Philly.
Turner was the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft out of Ohio State but never lived up to expectations. (Washington took John Wall at No. 1, and the Pacers took little-known Paul George from Fresno State at No. 10.) The 6-foot-7 Turner was having his best season in averaging a career-high 17.4 points along with 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists. However, someone has to put up numbers on a bad team, and the 76ers were awful. Turner turns the ball over plenty and struggles from 3-point range, but he gives Indiana another perimeter athlete alongside George and Lance Stephenson to deal with Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
The trade was all about dealing with Miami. Even Allen, the former Temple star who averages 5.4 rebounds per game, can help against the Heat, who lack size. Remember, too, that Indiana signed Andrew Bynum a few weeks ago, in large part to keep him from the Heat. Indiana’s lead in the East is down to 1.5 games over the Heat. Miami remains the Bovada NBA title favorite at 9-4 and tops to win the East at 5-6. The Pacers are 5-2 and even-money, respectively. Miami has pulled away a bit by winning eight of nine. The Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors are next on the list to win the East but way down at 33-1 each.
The two new Pacers will debut for the team Tuesday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. Turner averaged 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds against the Celtics this season with Philadelphia. Indiana, the NBA’s top defensive team, has had no trouble with Boston in 2013-14. On Nov. 22, the Pacers won 97-82 in Boston as a 7.5-point favorite. Indiana trailed by eight at halftime, but Boston turned it over 16 times in the second half and had eight third-quarter points. George had 27 points, and Stephenson had a triple-double. Jeff Green had 20 for Boston.
On Dec. 22 in Indianapolis, the Pacers rolled 106-79. Stephenson had another triple-double with 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Avery Bradley led Boston with just 13 points. The Pacers have won five of the past seven in the series and will open as around nine-point favorites Saturday.