INDIANAPOLIS – Through the first five games of the season, the Portland bench has been making its mark, outscoring benches from other teams and generally holding leads for the starting lineup.
But Monday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, that bench came up with something special that isn’t likely to be duplicated anytime soon.
Evan Turner’s Tribe outscored the Pacers’ bench 54-15 and more amazing, outscored its own starting lineup 54-49. And don’t think that domination was just on offense – the plus-minus for Portland told a big story.
The Trail Blazer starters were minus-17 and the bench was a whopping plus-67.
On this night the Portland bench bailed the starters out against a gritty defensive effort from the Pacers.
Turner, of course, was the ringleader of that effort by the reserves, He was at his passing and shooting best, hitting six of his nine shots , hauling in eight rebounds and flipping three assists. And as you would expect, he had plenty of help.
Nik Stauskas had 10 points and five assists, Zach Collins 17 points, three rebounds and three assists and Caleb Swanigan came back from obscurity to chalk up 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“It’s a team thing,” said Turner trying to deflect the spotlight. “We’ve been stepping up and doing our job, When it came down to the game being close, our starters stepped up and made some big shots and put the game away.
“We’re really confident in our second unit. We think we can go at a lot of second units and prevail.”
Turner’s role is as a point forward, distributing the ball to open teammates, many of whom are outstanding shooters.
“One thing I know for sure,” Turner said with a smile. “When I come in I look for number zero (Damian Lillard). That’s for sure.
“Usually when we’re in there we just keep running but I thought it was huge tonight that we were able to slow it down and turn it into a possession game.”
Stauskas, who is proving to be a better playmaker than advertised, is in heaven. Not only does he like his role – he likes having a role.
“I’ve never really had a role on a team before,” he said. “When I come into a game now I know what my role is. My four years in the league, I’ve never had a defined role and I never knew when my minutes were going to come – if they were going to come at all. It’s hard to get into any kind of rhythm when you play like that.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself out there with this team and we’re all having fun playing with each other.”
Curry, who combines with Stauskas to form a reliable three-point shooting package for Turner to work with, is still feeling his way back after missing all of last season due to injury.
“Still trying to get my full game back after missing a year,” Curry said. “But we’re playing well as a team and I’m trying to do a lot of other things besides score the ball.
“It’s fun when you’ve got ET out there handling the ball and pushing the pace, We have a good little chemistry going as a bench right now.”
On Monday night, it was a great big chemistry.