BOSTON - For three quarters Saturday night, 76ers guard Evan Turner looked like a world-beater. But if the Sixers are going to pull off yet another upset in this postseason, they need to squeeze even more out of the promise that Turner has shown flashes of.
Turner finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Sixers' 92-91 loss to the Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Boston's TD Garden. There were moments, especially early, when Turner looked like the best player on the floor, and there were other times - such as the fourth quarter, when he went without a rebound or a point - when he just appeared to be floating.
Either way, Turner seemed confident after the game that the Sixers will bounce back and get Game 2 on Monday.
"For sure," he said, not long after recording the first playoff double-double of his career. "We're definitely a confident group. We know what's going on out there. There are just a few things that, if they went our way, it could have gone our way. We're not worried at all. We've got Game 2 on Monday and we'll just have to come out and be aggressive."
If history means anything, Turner could very well come out Monday and have a good game, and the Sixers will need one from him. It was against Boston that Turner made his second start of the season, and the 6-foot-7 guard delivered, finishing with 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting. He also helped the Sixers win the rebound battle, 54-35, by pulling down nine boards.
This wasn't lost on Boston coach Doc Rivers. Before Game 1, Rivers said that the one thing he wanted to do was stay away from getting into a running game with the more athletic and younger Sixers. He made it a point to single out Turner as one of the keys - particularly keeping him off the defensive boards.
But early in the game, that was not the case.
Turner, who at times found himself matched defensively against the mercurial Rajon Rondo, wasted little time asserting himself. At one point in the first quarter, his five rebounds equaled the Celtics' total boards, and he finished the quarter with five rebounds - two more than Boston's whole team.
Turner's board work in the first half was a crucial reason the Sixers repeatedly were able to hold off the Celtics when they made charges, and at one point the Sixers built their lead to as many as 13 points in the first half.
Turner, with 12 points and eight assists, nearly had his double-double locked in by halftime. But he wasn't nearly as effective in the second half.
Teammate Andre Iguodala said that when Turner plays the way he did early on, it's not only reflected in his numbers but in his teammates as well. He also said that this was the best playoff game that Turner has played since he went for 19 points and six rebounds in the Sixers' 109-92 rout of the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the first round.
"It helps us out a lot because we have multiple threats on the floor," said Iguodala, who finished with a team-high 19 points. "It's always good when he plays aggressive. He showed that in Game 2 in Chicago.
"The key for us is going to be getting everyone playing together at a high level, because when we do that, we are a scary good team."