In some obvious ways, Miles Turner and TJ McConnell cannot be more different as a basketball player. Turner is a 6-foot-11 center that does its best above the rim. McConnell is a 6-foot-1 point guard who plays the game’s more down to earth brand. Turner hits a swim shot, while McConnell grabs the pocket. One is one Inauspicious presence In paint; Second, a self-described “insect” that roams the periphery.
But in a challenging season for the Indiana Pacers, Turner and McConnell have come together to suppress, strip, and thwart opponents, a two-man adventurous machine. In the process, they could become the first pair of teammates to lead the NBA in blocks and styles since the 2000–1 season, when Theo Rattliff (block) and Alan Iverson (steal) of the Philadelphia 76ers .
“The defensive end is just about effort, coming off the bench for a 1.8 steals per game lead,” McConnell said. “This is really what it comes down to, and this is something I can control. I can always give as much effort as possible.”
Turner, who averaged a league-leading and career-best 3.4 blocks per game, gave the Miami Heat huge problems by stopping a total of 10 shots in back-to-back wins over the weekend. On Sunday, he had two of them to help overtime that sealed the Pacers in a 109–106 victory.
“No shot is safe around him,” McConnell said.
They say they’ve made each other a better player – “Knowing you have someone who is going to match or even increase your intensity only helps you,” Turner said – and they have probably played a role in increasing each other’s league-leading totals.
McConnell feels he can jump into the passing lanes and become even more aggressive, he said, because he knows that Turner is positioned behind them as a safety net. Turner went so far as to encourage funnel players under his direction to encourage Maconnell and the other guards on the team.
“He’s always talking to me about how we can get ready to get each other,” McConnell said. He said, “He’s angling me to send players towards the rim. If I dishonor someone, he’ll come up and be like: ‘Hey, don’t be dishonest. You got me. I block the shot. Will do. “
Anything can happen beyond Thursday’s trade deadline, especially for a struggling team like the Pacers, who fell to 19-23 after losing Rising Milwaukee Bucks Monday night. Many teams are reported to be interested in Turner, although the price will be higher.
For now, Turner and McConnell continue to cultivate their on-court bromance – one that began to take shape in 2015 when they found themselves in the same pre-draft workouts, including one for the Pacers . They already knew each other, the two played big-time college basketball – McConnell in Arizona and Turner in Texas.
In his workouts for the Pacers, he teamed up and dominated three-on-three games, McConnell said. The Pacers picked Turner with the 11th pick that year. McConnell went undisputed.
“He always jokes about it: ‘I’m the one who drafted you here,” Turner said.
McConnell eventually Signed with 76ers, Who were waking up through the rough weeds of their infamous tanking era. It was an experiment that gave McConnell a chance to prove himself in the 2015–16 season, one that he did not waste. In addition to working as a pass-first distributor – he averaged 4.5 assists in 19.8 minutes of play – he committed 95 steals.
He stuck with the 76ers for four seasons, and occasionally found himself banging on as an acquaintance: Turner, who had quickly emerged as one of the league’s most feared internal defenders. McConnell considers himself lucky that he never had any of his shots blocked by Turner. And in a way, McConnell may have one-upped Turner by stealing his first pass players when they were first-year players.
“I’ll make sure he is aware of that statue,” McConnell said.
In his second season, however, Turner erased potential assists for McConnell. The 76ers were playing the role of Pacers when McConnell ran into transition and threw a lob for his then teammates Robert covington For almost everyone in the arena, it was an easy street sorting. But at the last minute, Turner came from behind to swoop through the lane and Covington dismissed at the rim..
“Many people would be afraid to sting in that situation,” Turner said. “But I don’t care if you sting. You have to develop that mentality as a shot blocker. All great shots sink to the blockers.”
McConnell, who signed with the Pacers before the start of last season, and Turner, who have spent their entire careers at Indiana, both say that what they do on defense can’t be taught much. Turner described his shot-blocking ability as “a gift”. McConnell said his type was a defensive idea.
“I just want to make it as hard as possible for people to get into their crime, more than half the court for them – to get anything,” he said. “You get into the game, and I’m not hurrying physically or all of that. But I’ll put pressure on you.”
While they are comfortable, bent on time and effort, they have refined their skills. In college, Turner said, he was often more athletic than the players he defended. But when he entered the NBA, he discovered a league populated by decathletes like Russell Westbrook – players who could tie him at or above it. Turner therefore elevated his position with the help of Dan Burke, a former assistant coach for the Pacers, who now works for the 76ers.
“You have to be in the right place at the right time,” Turner said. “You have to get there first.”
McConnell was around basketball from an early age. His father, Tim, was his coach at Charters Valley High School outside Pittsburgh, where players occasionally slide defensively, hitting dicks.
“We won’t do that often,” McConnell said. “But we certainly did it.”
As he grew older, McConnell would study Chris Paul Defensive Skills – “He just makes it so hard on people,” McConnell said – while earning his way into the NBA with the same resolve. Turner said McConnell’s opposition has been regularly underestimated by players.
“Especially by the youngsters coming into the league,” Turner said. “They look at him, like, ‘Who is this white boy in front of me?’ But TJ, it seems he takes it to heart. He loves the challenge – the challenge of the people is watching him like this. “
Earlier this month, before the All-Star break, McConnell had one of the best games of his career, scoring 16 points, 13 assists and 10 steals in a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. During an extraordinary stretch of the first quarter, he had stolen five straight possessions. He set an NBA record Nine steals in the first half.
“It’s as good a game as you’re going to watch,” said pacer Malcolm Brogdon.
McConnell too Leads league in deflectionHowever, he does not want to know his tally in real time during the game, he said, as he worries that he may be “weak”.
At the same time, McConnell managed to block 14 shots. Every time this happens, he said, it comes as a total surprise. And for the briefest moment, she gets a glimpse of what life should be like for her longtime partner.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Did I do that?” “McConnell said.