BOSTON – Evan Turner has earned a well-deserved reputation for delivering big plays in the fourth quarter of games this season for the Boston Celtics.
But with him being a starter now filling in for an injured Jae Crowder, the timeframe for his usual late-game exploits was pushed up a bit on Wednesday.
Indeed, it was Turner’s play in the third quarter that proved to be one of the keys to Boston (finally) beating the Toronto Raptors 91-79.
Boston (42-30) defeated the Kyle Lowry-less Raptors for the first time this season after losing the first three matchups.
Toronto’s all-star point guard was a last-minute scratch from the lineup because of a sore elbow.
Isaiah Thomas had a big night scoring the ball for Boston with 23 points, and Avery Bradley’s two-way game (he had 16 points and did an above-average job defending DeMar DeRozan) was impressive.
But it was Turner’s play in the third quarter that really shifted the game’s momentum in Boston’s favor after what had been an extremely tight first half in which neither team led by more than three points.
“He’s playing really good,” Bradley said of Turner. “We all know Evan can score the ball; he’s making plays for his teammates and the most important thing is we are winning games.”
And Turner has done it as a starter of late, but for most of the season he has stood out as one of the league’s top reserves.
On Wednesday he had 17 points, 13 of which came in the third quarter which began with the score tied at 46.
But Turner’s shot-making allowed the Celtics to pull ahead and take their first double-digit lead of the night.
“Evan made some tough shots (in the third quarter),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I mean, those pull-ups are not easy but those are what he does and when he gets in a rhythm like that, you want to give him the ball.”
Turner was looking to score more because Toronto’s defense was playing him more to pass rather than shoot his mid-range shot.
“Anytime I get a mid-range shot I feel good about it,” Turner said. “Just go with the wave of things. Basketball is a game of runs, and I just tried to run with that flow.”
And the Celtics have done a good job of recognizing when Turner has it going and typically respond by getting him the ball as often as possible.
“He (Turner) was in a zone,” said Thomas whose 23 points led all scorers. “He did a great job of making plays, getting to his sweet spots and just making shots.
Thomas added, “He’s a hell of a player when he can get to his spots and we rely on him to make plays and be a scorer.”