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Just when you thought you were out: Evan Turner has career game in Knicks win

Jan 23, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks

After an incredibly impressive start to the season, in which Evan Turner seemed like a completely different player–a smart, efficient, hard-working scorer who knew his limitations and knew how to succeed in spite of them–Evan proved not long thereafter that he was, in fact, still Evan Turner. He still takes questionable shots, he still tries to force the issue and complains when the refs don’t bail him out, and he still has virtually no self-awareness about his strengths and (especially) weaknesses as a basketball player, as evidenced by a series of increasingly delusional quotes he delivers about his own game in interviews that just make you shake your head and go “Oh, Evan.”

But even if it is still Evan Turner, it’s hard to deny that this season’s Evan Turner is the best version of the Extraterrestrial that we’ve seen thusfar. He’s still inconsistent and unreliable, but this time around, when the cold streaks come, they don’t tend to last longer than a couple games at a time–a week or two, tops–as opposed to in seasons past, where he could spend entire months in the tank before showing signs of life again. And this season, when he does go off, he really can win you a game virtually on his lonesome, and look like a legitimate All-Star while doing so.

Last night, Evan shook off such a three-game streak of subpar play–under 10 PPG on ten or fewer shot attempts in three straight losses–with what probably rates as the best game of his pro existence, exploding for a career-high 34 points (just the second 30+ scoring night of his career, and the first in regulation) and 11 rebounds in a 110-106 road win at MSG. Evan shot 13-22 for the game–as well as 3-3 from downtown and 5-5 from the line–and made a number of big buckets down the stretch, essentially outplaying All-Star Carmelo Anthony and powering the Sixers through a night where Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes combined to shoot 14-42.

As Malik pointed out on the broadcast, it wasn’t Evan’s first magical night at the Garden–he also went off for 24 and 15 in a surprise win over the ‘Bockers two seasons earlier, one of his breakout games and part of his first stretch that really teased me that he had turned the corner and would no longer be the erratic, inefficient two-guard of his first season-and-a-half as a Sixer. But two games later, Evan ran out of magic and posted four straight single-digit scoring outings, all in Philly losses. This is what ET does, and what he sooner or later will invariably do again. Sad, but at this point, undeniably true.

All we really can or should do at this point is cherish the times that are good. Evan was absolutely beautiful last night–smooth, aggressive, confident without being arrogant–and he showed that Ohio State sort of villainy, where he can be that guy on the other team that just drives you nuts with his indefatigability. It might be a while before we get to see Evan playing on this level again, especially since we actually play a couple pretty good teams in the Raptors and Thunder this weekend, and with the trade deadline rapidly approaching, you never know which time for him might end up actually being the last time. Sad, I know, though it’ll seem less so the next time he’s in a stretch of 12 points, 4-15 shooting, five turnover nights.

The Sixers won. ET was a beast. Drink it in before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming.