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1-on-1 with Terry Taylor — who hit the game-winner and posted the best performance at the G League Showcase
Taylor scored a showcase-high 46 points in his second game and led the Fort Wayne Mad Ants to a 2-0 record by making 31 of 41 field goals.
LAS VEGAS — It’s 131-129 when Justin Anderson inbounds the ball in front of the Oklahoma City Blue bench. The Blue are leading and at the G League Winter Showcase, the Elam Ending was used in all 31 games.
At the end of the third quarter, the target score is set by taking the winning score and adding 25 points. So there’s no game clock and in this case, the first team to 132 points won.
Terry Taylor, who signed a three-year deal with the Pacers at the end of last season, flashed between the circles and called for the ball. He made two dibbles with his dominant left hand, going against D.J. Wilson, took a jab-step to his left and unloaded.
Nothing but net.
“Terry Taylor is the king of Vegas,” the game announcer screamed.
Teammate Gabe York jumped on his back and Mad Ants assistant general manager Tim Brown made his way to the court to celebrate, just like Kevin Pritchard did after Andrew Nembhard’s game-winning 3 to beat the Lakers. (Both were in the same spot.)
Taylor capped an impressive individual performance, the best at the showcase, with the contested 3-pointer to lift the Mad Ants past the Blue by one point.
The Mad Ants just missed out for playing for the Showcase Cup, which includes a $100,000 prize for the players, but every team was guaranteed two games in Las Vegas with the games held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
Taylor finished with a career-high 46 points on 20-of-24 shooting and 14 rebounds. It was his 17th double-double in just 22 games played with the Mad Ants over the last two seasons. And being so difficult to contain inside, he piled up and-1s in a hurry.
In both games, he made three 3-pointers — including all three attempts in this final game. The Mad Ants lead the G League in points per game (123.2) and are second in pace (107.67), mirroring what the Pacers are doing. And Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle wants all of his players to shoot 3s.
“That was the emphasis,” Taylor told Fieldhouse Files at the showcase. “I’m hesitant a lot because (I want it) within the flow of the game. If we go down and shoot five straight 3s or something like that, I feel like we shouldn’t shoot another one and we should try to get to the paint. Regardless of if we’re open or not, try to get a shot at the rim or try to get fouled so we can get some good momentum, good flow going.
“He told me to take some 3s and just shoot it with confidence, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
“I work in the gym all night, every day just trying to be ready for whenever the Pacers need me. Whenever my time comes, I’ll be ready to hopefully step in, knock shots down and play defense at a high level.”
Taylor was named to the All-Showcase Team, along with Brandon Boston Jr. (Ontario Clippers), Tre Mann (Oklahoma City Blue), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Memphis Hustle) and Isaiah Mobley (Cleveland Charge).
He is the first Mad Ants player named to the team since Alize Johnson during the 2019-20 season.
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Taylor, 23, wasn’t expecting to fly to Las Vegas and play in the winter showcase. But last Sunday, after the Pacers’ loss to the New York Knicks, Carlisle and assistant coach Lloyd Pierce called him into the office and explained that these would be good tuneup games for him since he hasn’t played in a while.
It was so unexpected that the Mad Ants didn’t even have his uniform ready. They had flown straight to the showcase from Milwaukee, where they played their past two games.
So he wore a jersey without ‘Taylor’ on the back in both games, like he was a newcomer and not the best player on the team.
Up with the Pacers, Taylor hasn’t got off the bench in the last five games. He’s played a total of five minutes of game action this month and has not played double-digit minutes since the first week of the season. He’s on the outside of the rotation with no change in sight.
“I was excited about the opportunity to just go out and play,” Taylor said. “It’s more of me just staying in shape and finding my rhythm within the game. I was happy, it was just such a late notice.”
Taylor went home and packed his bags for the week, then was picked up by a car service around 8:00 a.m. Monday for his ride to the airport. They fly commercial in the G League; no chartered flights here.
“It was a quick turnaround for me, but I’m used to it,” he explained. “Last year when I was on the two-way, I did the same thing. I had a game in Long Island and they called me at like 8 in the morning and I had to fly to San Francisco. I’m used to it and that’s part of being a pro. You got to be adaptable, be professional through everything that you’re going through.”
Taylor had the right approach to the pair of games at the showcase and that’s important. If he was frustrated and bothered by being sent to the Mad Ants, his play would have reflected that and negatively impacted the team.
But that’s not Terry. He knows he’s running his own race.
“He loves to play,” said Mad Ants head coach Tom Hankins. “Anytime we can get him, it’s a boost. He gives our team confidence just knowing he’s here and is a guy who fits right in.”
In the two games, he shot a combined 76% (31 for 41) from the field and had games of 28 and 46 points, respectively.
However, Taylor’s lack of court time showed in both games as he was gassed in certain moments. Not only was he producing, but he’s out of game shape; that’s different than being in shape.
And playing pickup games after practice with interns cannot simulate the real thing. So Terry was playing his way back into rhythm and game shape.
“Oh I was (tired),” Taylor acknowledged. “It’s just taking it a step at a time. I’ll be better next game just because I finally got my wind under me. It felt good being out there, competing and playing with these guys.”
The Mad Ants demolished the Santa Cruz Warriors on Tuesday 134-96. And that hard, product play continued Thursday night against the Blue. Excluding the two Target Score quarters, the Mad Ants scored at least 31 points in all six quarters.
And their start against the Blue was an all-timer. They score the game’s first 13 points. Then, in just five minutes, they got up by 25 points (38-15) as shots were falling. They made seven of their first eight 3-pointers and finished the period with 11 assists on 16 field goals.
By halftime, Taylor had 27 points and 7 rebounds — what most players would consider an outstanding game. He ended the half in an exciting fashion, a dunk off a miss that just beat the buzzer.
With Taylor leading the way, the Mad Ants went 2-0 this week. And not many people leave Las Vegas with wins.
Taylor is too good to be playing in the G League anymore, other than to get game reps when needed. At times it looked like a member of the varsity team playing against freshman. He has the skills, power and production that exceeds most of his peers.
We saw it at summer league and again in the G League.
This should be it — and what a grand finale that was.
Last season, as a rookie, Taylor led the Pacers in field goal percentage (61.4), offensive rebounds (2.9), offensive-rebound percentage (12.9).
He’s going to play hard, he’s going to rebound and now he’s showing a confidence in his willingness to shoot — even from outside. He adapts to the moment and stays ready on the bench.
It was Carlisle last year who joked how Taylor may be 6-foot-5, but he plays like he’s 6-foot-9. The challenge for Taylor has been getting minutes this season. There’s a logjam of bigs to where first-round picks Isaiah Jackson and Goga Bitadze are also not in the rotation.
“It can be difficult,” Taylor said, “but you also have to understand as a player and a competitor, our team is winning, our chemistry has been going well so I can’t sit there and pout — and think about me, me, me when it’s the team.
“Of course I want to be out there. Of course I want to be contributing. But at the same time, we’ve won with the guys that’s been playing, and the guys that’s been playing have playing pretty well so all you can do is be happy for them, and just continue to be a good teammate, a good locker room guy and wait for your moment.
“You never know when that time might come. They could need me in Miami or in Boston, who knows. I just got to be ready for whatever might come next.”
Highlights from his 46-point showing on Thursday below: