Turner thriving under the bright lights


Turner thriving under the bright lights

Evan Turner does not have a problem with his confidence.

The Chicago product stirred the pot prior to the start of the playoffs when he said the Sixers were "dodging a bullet" to draw the Bulls instead of the Heat.

He has been rewarded handsomely for those comments with a downpour of boos every time he has touched the ball in the first two games of the series in Chicago.

After Saturday's contest, Turner said the fans weren't getting to him and he proved it with a big game Tuesday night to help lead the Sixers to victory. His knack for playing the best in the biggest games has endeared him to his teammates and coaches.

"That's what I love about Evan," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said. "He feels like he's the best player in the gym. And I love that. I know he made some ill-timed comments and he gets booed every time he touched the ball. He's using that in a very positive way. A lot of guys would maybe cower away from that, but Evan has risen to the challenge."

With the Sixers down 1-0 in the series, the pressure was on, but Turner was up to the task.

"People always talk about guys disappearing in big moments," he said. "I never wanted to be that type of guy. When it comes to big games, I just want to play well, be there and help my teammates.

"It's the playoffs. Everything is intensified. You have to play with an edge...You have to raise the level of play."

Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday understands the magnitude of each game in this best-of-seven series.

"This is the stage you dream to be on," he said. "Playing against the best team in the East, someone has to step up. It makes it a lot easier when we have guys who have big games."

While Holiday stepped up in his own right, Turner was almost as impressive, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds and six assists.

"Evan played great," Sixers power forward Elton Brand said. "He's a great all-around player. He can rebound for us, score the ball for us, pass the ball, distribute the ball and play defense. He did it all tonight. That's what we need out of him."

After coming off the bench in Game 1, Turner got the start Tuesday night and played almost 42 minutes. Collins designed some plays to get Turner involved in the offense and the young guard said after the game that he was confident he would make the shot when it was given to him.

"Evan had to be out there," Collins said. "He had been playing great. We needed another playmaker.

"I thought Evan hit a couple really big baskets for us when we needed it. They made a little run and I thought he made a couple nice plays that gave us a nice cushion."

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

After getting a look at each point guard in the starting lineup this preseason, Jim Boylen finally got a look at what appears to be his starting lineup for Opening Night. 

Tomas Satoransky started as the point next to Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. That group was down 10-7 when Carter subbed out at the 8:36 mark but looked better in later stints in the game. 

Carter was noticeably slow on his first step on his defense, specifically on plays where Raptors center Chris Boucher was able to use his speed and length advantage to finish at the rim. But he was solid on the glass, even chipping in on the offensive rebounding side of things, grabbing 3 offensive boards in the first half alone. 

Carter was clearly re-adjusting to the speed of NBA basketball and as play-by-play broadcaster Stacey King noted during the game, he "just doesn't have his legs underneath him." He was 1-6 from the floor, struggling to get lift as he went up for putback layups around the basket. 

That being said, he was decent, more so on the defensive side of the floor where he became more active as the game wore on.

In his 16-minutes stint, Carter posted 10 points, 7 rebounds, an assist and a block, while picking up 3 personal fouls. 

Outside of Carter's return stint, the Bulls new-look starting group looked solid and offers hope as we approach the start of the NBA regular season.