PHOENIX – These are exhibition games – preseason games – and the fact that the Trail Blazers posted a 115-93 win over the Phoenix Suns Friday night meant next to nothing.
You look for little things in games like this. You look at performances, combinations, trends and try to project all that into the regular season, which is still three more of these non-counting games away.
There were a lot of positives to take away from this game, which the Trail Blazers once led by 33 points, tempered by the fact that the Suns played without their best player, Devin Booker, who was out with an injury to his right hand.
The biggest thing was the play of Evan Turner in his role as a point forward – the role this team had envisioned for him when they acquired him as a free agent.
Turner played with starters Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and then with backups Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry. And he did his thing – getting his team into offense, steering the ball to the right players in the right spots and getting his own points.
[HIGHLIGHTS: Nurk, Turner spark win in Phoenix]
Turner finished with a team-high plus-25 in the plus-minus, scored 10 points on 5-8 shooting and hauled in five rebounds.
“First three quarters we didn’t lose a step when the second unit was out there,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “In the first half and third quarter they kept a nice rhythm and built on the lead.
“I thought Evan, Nik and Seth together all did a nice job. They complemented each other well. Evan did a nice job of directing the offense.
“Evan’s a good facilitator. He sees the game really well. Being a point forward and having shooters around him – and we’ve added shooters – he played with both those combos and he makes it easier for the guys around him.”
Turner’s skills are enhanced by playing with talented shooters. He can get into the post and either score if defended one-on-one or, if he draws double-teams, dish the ball back to the shooters.
Turner, his left shoulder wrapped in ice and looking like a starting pitcher who just threw 120 pitches, is enjoying the opportunity to get back to making plays out of the post.
“I’ve got it all,” he said. “I’m going to tell you the truth – I’ve got it all when I’m right. Post-wise, I’m like a championship big. You know what I’m sayin’? You have to see me play out of the post and pass out of the post… honestly, Seth and Nik and shooters like Zach and Meyers, they give you room…”
At one point of the game, Turner was working his left shoulder as if he was in serious pain. It’s an injury, he said, that happened prior to training camp.
“I messed it up like three weeks ago,” Turner said. “I ran into Biggie (Swanigan) and my shoulder hit his hip bone. It’s just a light sprain but every now and then it gets touched and it gets irritated.
“Sometimes I’m playing a little bit and then I sit out and it gets tight. I was closing out and a couple of times it got dinged up. I heard something and I got more worried than what it really was.
“It’s going to be fine.”
Stotts came away happy with his team’s defense.
“They have a lot of movement and we did a nice job of communicating all the action we had to navigate,” he said. “I was most pleased with the defense.”
And on a night when Stotts said before the game there would be no effort to play everyone, he did just that – thanks to the big third-quarter lead.