The Indiana Pacers have been quietly rolling to close out 2018. After their 116-108 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, the Pacers now sit just a game back for a share of first place in the Eastern Conference.
A large part of the Pacers' success this season has been their defence, and more specifically the impact Myles Turner has made on that side of the ball. Turner came into Monday's game with the league lead in block shots with 99 total on the year, and an average of 2.8 blocks per game. Turner batted away four more shots in the win over the Hawks to go over the century mark - the first player to do so this season.
That's block number 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ for @Original_Turner this season. 🖐🏾 pic.twitter.com/JwakBrrXFR- Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 31, 2018
The race for Defensive Player of the Year is wide open at this point, but the argument for Turner is growing with every passing game.
It's not just that Turner is blocking shots, but he's become now an intimidating force around the rim in the mould of a Rudy Gobert or JaVale McGee. He boasts a shot blocking percentage of 74.4% which is by far the most efficient amongst the league leaders in blocks per game. Opposing teams shoot 7.1% worst at the rim with Turner in the game against the Pacers. His defensive rating of 99 is by far the best in his career, his previous low was 101.
Turner has been pretty consistent on the offensive end to start his career, but it's clear that he's taken on a defensive mindset this season.
Monster Myles ✋🏾✋🏾✋🏾 pic.twitter.com/2WbYc9swmn- Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 31, 2018
His team has reaped the benefits of his rim protection and all-around effort as Indiana will head into the new year as the best defensive team in the league. They'll finish the month of December with a 12-3 mark and are really starting to open up some eyes around the league with the fourth best record in the NBA.
Turner did leave the game on Monday with a broken nose in the third quarter. He finished the game with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
If he does come back and play with the injury he'll likely be wearing a protector mask - something that might him even more intimidating as he lurks around the rim.
If Myles Turner has to wear a mask while he's recovering from a broken nose, Victor Oladipo is confident that he'll be just fine: "Don't worry, I've worn a mask before. I'll give him some pointers. The mask has secret powers, so he'll be alright."@Pacers pic.twitter.com/Qdr1pAs57j- FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) December 31, 2018