Myles Turner finally reaches conference semifinals after winding career with Indiana Pacers

Turner had two sensational games in the series
Apr 30, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) shoots during warmups in the playoffs
Apr 30, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) shoots during warmups in the playoffs / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — The final buzzer sounded just before 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday night, and the Indiana Pacers were celebrating. They had just taken down the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of their first round playoff series, and that meant the Pacers had won the best-of-seven set 4-2. The blue and gold were off to the Conference Semifinals.

It marked the first series victory for the Pacers since 2014. The team and its fans were naturally elated, yet one player in particular was the face of the decade-long journey.

As the Bucks and Pacers both walked to midcourt to exchange pleasantries after the series, Myles Turner was just a few steps behind star guard Tyrese Haliburton. Turner's first handshake was with Bucks star Khris Middleton. Eventually, he made it to former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, then Danilo Gallinari, Malik Beasley, and Pat Connoughton. But then Turner did something that not many others did.

He hugged a few of his coaches and high fived several teammates. At that moment, Turner's emotions were obvious. For the first time in his career, all of which has been with the Pacers franchise, the veteran big man was a part of a playoff series victory. It was a special scene for the Texas native.

"I've seen the highs and lows of this... to finally get a little bit of fruit of your labor is incredible," Turner said at his locker after the game. He had sunglasses on as he talked about his team being professional throughout the series, including in Game 6 as they played with a lead and closed out Milwaukee. "For me personally, it means a lot to finally advance being in the NBA as long as I have."

When Turner was selected in the lottery by the Pacers in 2015, the team was coached by Frank Vogel. Paul George was the team's star. In Turner's first season, Indiana lost in seven games in the first postseason round before switching head coaches from Vogel to Nate McMillan. But George and company were swept in the first round the following season.

George requested a trade. Turner and the Pacers went through another era. McMillan led the way, but the star talent was Victor Oladipo. That iteration of the Pacers reached the postseason three straight times, but they fell in the first round each season. Twice, they were swept. Between injury hurdles and a clunky frontcourt, that team never got off the ground.

Changes were needed, and the Pacers traded Oladipo while also moving on from McMillan. Nate Bjorkgren led the way for one season, but Indiana missed the playoffs despite high expectations. It was a poor year. Bjorkgren was let go.

That all led to Rick Carlisle coaching the Pacers, and the franchise went through a rebuild during Carlisle's first year as head coach. Domantas Sabonis, who started next to Turner for years, was sent away for Tyrese Haliburton. A new era of basketball arrived in Indiana.

It has been perfect for Turner. Haliburton is the best passer he's ever played with, and Carlisle unlocked much of Turner's game inside the arc. Being the lone center on the court allowed the veteran big man to roll into the paint, pop out for threes, and make plays with the ball.

Those are the basketball highs and lows Turner was referring to. In the first five seasons of his career, the Pacers made the playoffs every year. They never advanced, but they had some good squads. Turner developed quickly and fit in well on defense-first rosters.

Next to Sabonis, Turner never shined in the same way. His numbers dipped, and once Oladipo was dealt, Indiana was never particularly threatening. They won 34 games, then 25, then 35. Their rebuild went fast, and Turner's role made more sense. But the team wasn't very good.

This year, for the first time in Myles Turner's career, it all came together. Indiana acquired Pascal Siakam, who is the perfect frontcourt partner. Haliburton got better. Carlisle had more time with this team. The Pacers became great, and Turner was a key part of it.

That's why Turner was high-fiving and hugging everybody on the hardwood after Game 6. Turner was prioritized by Indiana, and he produced on a roster that he loves. "I haven't played with a team as together as this team," he said. "I think that we have such a great makeup of vets and younger guys, and I think it's kind of a perfect mesh. I really go to bat for all these guys. I love seeing all these guys successful."

The Pacers have been a roller coaster during Turner's time with the team. But his individual career arc has been just as winding. He was a promising rookie, then a four man, then a center. His defensive skill landed him in the top-five of Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Then, he went back to playing the four. His requirements shrunk, and he felt like a role player. He wanted more, and even after Sabonis was traded and Turner went back to playing center, there were still reports that he could be dealt.

He instead remained with the Pacers and had a career year in 2022-23. His offensive responsibilities made sense. His defensive role was vital. Turner was a key veteran for Indiana. He was much more than a role player.

This season, that remains the case. Turner is a leader and an anchor on both ends of the floor. Everything in his career led to this season. He built up his abilities playing multiple positions, his mentality improved after playing in a smaller role, and his appreciation for this specific team came as the group ascended via a rebuild.

Now, for the first time ever, Turner is headed to the second round of the playoffs. "From an individual standpoint it's bittersweet just because of the way things unfolded for myself tonight," Turner said of how he was feeling after the game. His team won, which was all that matted. But he dealt with foul trouble and finished with five points and five rebounds. "I was very excited for our group."

It was his worst game of the first round, but the Pacers wouldn't have won the series without his play over the six games. Turner had his best-ever postseason outing in Game 3, and the Pacers won that game in overtime. That was the most important game of the series, and the veteran center was sensational.

The very next game, he was just as good with 29 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in a Game 4 victory. The crowd chanted Turner's name that night as Indiana took a commanding 3-1 series lead, and they held on in the best-of-seven set.

They'll play the New York Knicks in the Conference Semifinals, and Turner will get more chances to show how good he has become in the postseason. He'll share the floor with his team for at least another week, and Turner will have more opportunities to play in front of Indianapolis fans.

"It was incredible just to feel the momentum and feel the energy," he said of the crowd Thursday. They gave him a boost during the series, and Myles Turner had two of his best games in his career. It meant so much to him, which is why he spent a moment with his teammates before exiting the floor. Now, he gets more chances to do it again on a bigger stage.

  • Adjustments and focus were key for Indiana Pacers in Game 4. They will be even more vital the rest of the series. CLICK HERE.
  • Myles Turner has his best career playoff game for Indiana Pacers as film time and maturity mesh.CLICK HERE.
  • Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers delivered a moment fans waited five years to see. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers crush Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 to secure first-round series victory. CLICK HERE.
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Tony East


Tony East is the Publisher of AllPacers. He has previously written for Forbes Sports, the West Indianapolis Community News, WTHR, and more while hosting the Locked On Pacers podcast.