NEW YORK — Sunday night should present a matchup of two of the bright young big men in the NBA at Madison Square Garden.
If, that is, Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner is prepared to tangle with New York Knicks forward/center Kristaps Porzingis.
The Pacers’ young stud returned to the floor Friday night in a 121-110 loss to Philadelphia after a seven-game absence because of a concussion and its after-effects. Turner had 11 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes in the loss, his first action since Opening Night.
Turner is expected to start against the Knicks on Sunday, but he’ll have one tall task in front of him.
Porzingis has blossomed into one of the best big men in the league as he finishes out a week in which he has already topped 35 points twice. The third-year pro had 38 points in a 116-110 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday and 37 in a 120-107 win over Phoenix on Friday.
Porzingis brought a rather unexcitable MSG crowd to its feet Friday, drawing cheers of “MVP! MVP!” after he blocked a Josh Jackson layup and then drew a foul while dunking with authority on the offensive end late in the fourth quarter.
“I love that play,” Porzingis told reporters after the game. “Just the energy in the Garden at that moment was unbelievable. I had to calm myself down to hit the free throw.”
Porzingis missed practice due to a sore left ankle Saturday but is expected to play.
Turner’s return to the lineup could spark an Indiana squad that fared well enough without him.
Indiana had won three straight before Friday’s loss, including a 124-107 win at Cleveland on Wednesday, the Pacers’ best win of the young season.
The Pacers got solid, if unspectacular production from second-year center Domas Sabonis, the No. 11 pick in last season’s draft. Sabonis has averaged more than 15 points and 11 rebounds over the past four games, in which the Pacers went 3-1.
The 76ers had 34 assists in Friday’s win, and for the second straight game, Indiana will try to limit a team on the fast break.
“Transition, I thought we lost them, it was a rat race early,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said after the loss. “They were knocking down some shots, tempo was fast. With the changes of their rotation, we had some cross matchups and lost those guys. We regrouped in the second quarter and were able to get control and slow them down. We took some better shots to get back into the game. They made a couple more shots than we did.”
New York has been better on the break since the addition of Jarrett Jack to the starting lineup. The longtime pro has stabilized the Knicks’ backcourt, and Tim Hardaway Jr. has thrived as his running mate. New York is 4-1 since Jack took over the point guard duties from Ramon Sessions.
Having Turner back will help Indiana attempt to slow down the Knicks’ momentum.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to our rotation tomorrow,” McMillan told reporters after Saturday’s practice. “Myles played more minutes than we expected (Friday night). He looked OK. His wind was OK. We have to continue to work him back in shape, but I want to get him back with that first unit and get Domas back to that second unit.”