(The Sports Xchange) - With his parents in town to help celebrate his 20th birthday, Indiana Pacers rookie Myles Turner wanted to mark the significance of the day with specific numbers Thursday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I was trying for 20 points and 20 rebounds, but the most important thing was that I wanted to play my hardest,” said the former University of Texas standout, who achieved most of his objectives for this night.
Turner celebrated with 24 points and 16 rebounds, and the Pacers defeated the injury-plagued Pelicans 92-84 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers (38-33) earned their 10th consecutive victory over the Pelicans (26-45).
New Orleans, which had eight of its 16 players available, closed within 88-84 on Toney Douglas’ 3-pointer with 1:03 left.
“We knew they were short-handed, but we also knew we would have to match their intensity,” said Turner, noting that several Pelicans were looking to showcase their skills with minutes they don’t normally receive.
C.J. Miles made two free throws with 46.6 seconds remaining, increasing the Indiana lead to 90-84. Monta Ellis made two more free throws with 40.1 seconds to play to push the Pacers ahead 92-84.
“Turner is becoming a big-time threat,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “He is improving every night and is especially getting better defensively. We are asking him to guard a lot of different people.”
Miles added 19 for Indiana, which lost leading scorer Paul George to a lower right leg injury in the third quarter. George did not return, finishing with 15 points.
“The most important thing about what I did tonight is that I helped us win,” Miles said. “I tried to take good shots.”
When George went out, the Pacers really needed Miles, according to Vogel.
”All we know at this point is that Paul is day-to-day, but we got a big lift off the bench from C.J, when Paul went out,“ Vogel said. ”C.J. filled in with that next-guy-up mentality. C.J. plays just as hard against New Orleans as he does against Oklahoma City.
“I was happy at times tonight, but not really overall. Turner and Miles were huge for us.”
Alexis Ajinca led the Pelicans with 22 points, Tim Frazier added 18 and Alonzo Gee scored 17. New Orleans was guilty of 16 turnovers.
Frazier’s 3-pointer cut the Indiana lead to 79-73 with 7:32 remaining, but thanks in large part to Turner’s strong play, Indiana hung on.
“I really appreciate everything that they did and how hard they played,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said of his makeshift lineup. “I thought we kept trying to battle our way back into the game. We just couldn’t quite get over the hump. I would say the only negative was at the end when we had some miscommunication on a couple of things. I would not take anything away from this group.”
Miles’ 3-pointer just ahead of the third-quarter buzzer gave Indiana a 70-61 lead through 36 minutes. A Miles basket with 11:07 remaining in the fourth quarter extended the advantage to 75-63 and prompted a New Orleans timeout.
The Pacers finished the first half on a 17-6 run to take a 49-39 lead through 24 minutes, getting 16 points from Turner and 13 from George.
Turner and George were a combined 12-for-16 from the field during a half when Indiana shot 48.8 percent.
Ajinca had 12 points and five rebounds for the Pelicans in the first two quarters, and Gee added eight. New Orleans shot 37 percent.
For the night, Indiana outshot New Orleans 45.6 percent to 41.2 percent.
“With Turner, it’s just like every other team with a young kid, he was good because he was able to make shots,” Ajinca said. “He played a good game tonight, but it’s not like he was unguardable. For us, we were without a lot of guys, but we were right there in the game. It was a good game for us.”