INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers rookie Myles Turner had the perfect vision for his 20th birthday bash.
He played his best game of the season and got a win.
Turner scored 24 points, grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and led the Pacers to a crucial 92-84 victory Thursday over the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans. He wanted a little more.
“I was really trying to get 20 points and 20 rebounds,” a giddy Turner said. “The big thing for us tonight was that we knew they were short-handed but, because of that, we also knew we had to match their intensity and get this win.”
The Pacers needed Turner more than ever on a night they looked uninspired even before losing Paul George in the third quarter with a bruised right leg, the same leg he gruesomely broke in August 2014. George did not play over the final 19 1/2 minutes and finished with 15 points and four rebounds.
After the game, coach Frank Vogel said the three-time All-Star was considered day to day.
That was about the only thing that tainted Turner’s spectacular night. He was 11 of 17 from the field and blocked three shots in 32 1/2 minutes and dazzled the crowd with a one-handed windmill dunk in the first half.
He did more than make big plays and put up impressive numbers, too. Turner scored eight straight points late in the first half to start a decisive 13-2 run that gave the Pacers a 49-37 lead. Indiana never trailed again.
“Turner is becoming a big-time threat,” Vogel said. “He is improving and is getting a lot better defensively. We’re asking him to guard a lot of different people. He was really good tonight.”
By winning their second straight, the Pacers moved a half-game ahead of Detroit for the No. 7 spot in the East and two games ahead of ninth-place Chicago.
New Orleans has lost seven of nine, the latest one coming with only eight players in uniform because of injuries.
Yet they still made things difficult for the Pacers.
Alexis Ajinca scored 22 points and Tim Frazier had a career-high 18 to lead the Pelicans, who got within six late in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 88-84 on Toney Douglas’ 3-poitner with 1:03 left.
The Pelicans couldn’t get any closer.
“I thought we kept trying to battle our way back, we just couldn’t quite get over the hump,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “I thought we did a great job.”