Is this the season Evan Turner finally breaks out?

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Is this the season Evan Turner finally breaks out?

Penny for your thoughts? On the Sixers' opening day, if you could really get inside the mind of Evan Turner, what do you think he is thinking? The No. 2 overall pick was not traded this offseason when it looked like the Sixers were doing all they could to retool the entire roster. So, why hang on to ET?

With the dust settled and the final cuts and acquisitions made, Turner is still donning blue and white and is arguably the Sixers’ best offensive option this season.

Turner is facing a watershed moment as his rookie contract closes. If the Sixers do not sign him to a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline, he will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

It has been far from an outpouring of brotherly love for ET. As a highly touted draft pick in 2009, his three-plus years in Philly have been marred by the disparity between expectations and reality. Expectations for a No. 2 overall draft pick can range from the pinnacle of prospects like Kevin Durant or the dreg of draftees, Darko Milicic. Turner is somewhere in between. The 6-foot-7 wing averaged a little more than 13 points last season and has steadily increased his assists, rebounding and scoring totals over his three years in South Philly.

You would imagine Turner is wondering where he fits in as the Sixers reshape the franchise. Working in his favor, Turner fits the mold of the player the team has targeted as of late -- high draft picks with low salaries and considerable upside.

Is Turner jaded about the team’s current state of affairs? Would you be? Imagine being the face of a franchise headed nowhere in a hurry -- playing out the string, unsure you’re even a part of the future. It's a challenging situation to say the least.

For now, Turner is towing the company line and putting the team above himself. In a season sure to be filled with weary moments because of the Sixers' unofficial plan, Turner and several other players could be casualties of a much-needed rebuild. Some form of a Sixers trade before the February deadline is as sure a thing as Michael Jordan in the clutch. Whether Turner is a part of that exodus is unknown.

What we do know is Turner’s future is cloudy and may not clear up until his on-court production shows the new Sixers regime exactly what it has.

After playing in the shadow of Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday for three seasons, the Sixers' revamp may be coming at just the right time for Turner’s coming-out party.

Sixers use 3-ball to get past Bucks' frontcourt length

Sixers use 3-ball to get past Bucks' frontcourt length

MILWAUKEE -- One of the ways teams have attacked the Milwaukee Bucks this season is by hoisting up a large number of three-point attempts. 

So it wasn’t alarming to Sixers coach Brett Brown that his team launched 37 shots from beyond the arc in the Sixers' 113-104 win over Milwaukee on Monday (see instant replay)

“I wanted more of them,” Brown said. 

The Bucks entered Monday tied for fourth in opponent three-point attempts and makes. Teams are averaging 10.3 made triples on 29.1 attempts against Milwaukee.

This has a lot to do with the length of the Bucks, which allow the ninth fewest points in the paint and are tied for 11th in blocked shots. 

“When you look at how they play, I think they are the seventh ranked defense in the NBA, they are so long,” Brown said. “As we studied them and put forth a scouting report and instructions, we wanted everybody to take two steps further back as a starting point to create space for Joel (Embiid) and Jahlil (Okafor).

“Then you can hug the line or you can step into the line. We really wanted to promote steppers because of their length.” 

Four of Milwaukee’s last five opponents have attempted at least 30 threes, and the Bucks have allowed at least 10 made threes in each of their last seven games. 

The Sixers, which have hoisted at least 30 three-point attempts in 22 of 39 games, kept up the trend.

“Every team we play shoots threes,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “At some point, we have to understand what the three means to us as a team if we want to win. We can talk about it but if there's no effort in guarding it and understanding, again, it starts with effort. If we don't give it, we're going to give up a lot of threes.”

Philadelphia scored 18 of its 24 first-quarter points on three-pointers, making 6 of 13 attempts.

The only quarter the Sixers were beat from the three-point line was also the only quarter they were outscored Monday. Four of Milwaukee’s five made three-pointers came in the second quarter, while the Sixers were just 2 of 8. 

In the decisive second half in which the Sixers outscored the Bucks, 67-50, they hit six threes and allowed just one. 

“We knew how they are defending,” Sixers guard Sergio Rodriguez said. “They are a team with a lot of length, so it is hard to drive and get to the basket. They try to press and steal and are aggressive, so if we break the first line it is easier to shoot threes and find people open. That’s what we did, especially in the second half.”

While the Sixers shot just 37.8 percent from long range, they outscored the Bucks by 27 points on three-pointers. 

Eight different players hit threes for the Sixers with Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova, Nik Stauskas, Gerald Henderson, Chasson Randle and Dario Saric all hitting a pair. 

Jahlil Okafor was the only Sixers player to see the floor and not attempt a shot from beyond the arc.

“We needed to spread it out and we knew we needed to shoot a lot of threes,” Brown said. “We wanted to encourage it. I think it was a significant reason we were able to have 67 points in the second half.”

Okafor stays ready
Up until roughly 30 minutes before tipoff, Okafor was not expecting to play Monday. 

Nerlens Noel was set to back up Joel Embiid at center until a sprained left ankle left him a pregame scratch, which meant Okafor got the call. 

“You have to mentally get ready,” Okafor said. “I just had to get loose as quick as I could. I have been working extremely hard to stay prepared in case something like this happens.” 

Okafor finished with 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting in 20 minutes, helping the Sixers' reserves outscore Milwaukee’s bench, 52-34. 

“To go to Jahlil Okafor before the game and say, ‘I’m not going to go with you, I’m going to go with Nerlens,’ and then two minutes before warm ups go, ‘Whoops, it looks like you are in,’ he didn’t flinch,” Brown said. “I thought he played hard and played well. He was a really big part of the reason we won tonight.

“His attitude continues to blow me away given his age and what he is going through.”   

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

BOX SCORE 

MILWAUKEE -- The tone was set in the opening minutes of the third quarter. 

The Sixers quickly made up a halftime deficit and rolled from there, outscoring the Bucks, 67-50, in the second half for a 113-104 victory over Milwaukee on Monday.

The Sixers have now won four of their last five games with their only loss in the stretch coming the game Joel Embiid sat out. 

Milwaukee used a 19-4 run to take a 54-44 lead, but the Sixers scored the final basket of the first half and the first eight points of the third quarter to tie the game. 

Embiid scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 22 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high tying five blocked shots.

Inside the box score
• The Sixers scored 18 of their 24 first-quarter points from the 3-point line, connecting on 6 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc. Philadelphia hit on 14 of 37 three-point attempts, while Milwaukee was just 5 for 14. 

• Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points in the first half, but battled foul trouble after the break and finished with 23 points for the game. He picked up his fourth foul with 6:04 left in the third quarter and was whistled for his fifth foul just 38 seconds into the fourth quarter. 

• Eight Sixers scored in double figures, led by Embiid with 22. Dario Saric added 17, Ersan Ilyasova scored 12, Gerald Henderson and Robert Covington had 11 and Sergio Rodriguez, Jahlil Okafor and Chasson Randle each added 10. 

McConnell MRI negative
The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and did not play against the Bucks (see story).
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”

Sergio Rodriguez started in McConnell’s place and scored 10 points with seven rebounds and six assists. 

Monster jam
Embiid threw down a thunderous dunk to give the Sixers a 77-76 lead with 1:00 left in the third quarter. He then forced a turnover on the other end and later blocked a shot attempt by Matthew Dellavedova at the third-quarter buzzer. 

Noel sits
Sixers center Nerlens Noel was a late scratch from Monday’s game due to a sprained left ankle. 

Up Next
The Sixers will host Toronto (27-13) on Wednesday and Portland (18-25) on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center before traveling to Atlanta to face the Hawks (24-17) on Saturday.