Pacers Contemplating Holding Hill Out Until Playoffs
The Pacers have a decision to make heading into their final three regular season games: Keep playing George Hill, who’s dealing with a hip strain that leads to pain in his groin, or give him the next week off before the postseason begins.
It’s not an easy decision considering the Pacers aren’t locked into a seed yet and could even drop to fourth if the Brooklyn Nets have a much better finish. The Pacers have a two-game lead with three games – at New York, at Boston, vs. Philadelphia – to be played, but all three of the Nets’ final opponents are lottery bound.
Hill has been dealing with injuries going all the way back to training camp. He sat out the entire preseason with first a thumb injury, and then a hip-pointer. Throughout the season, he has been hampered by a right thigh contusion, a left shoulder contusion and a left groin strain.
Hill hasn’t participated in practice since he reaggravated his groin in Tuesday’s win over Cleveland. Paul George (fatigue) didn’t practice on Saturday either, after playing 43 minutes on Friday.
At this point in the season, Vogel says every player on the team has some kind of bumps and bruises and every coach is having to manage rest. Should the Pacers decide to sit Hill for the next week, backup point guard D.J. Augustin will more than likely start in his place.
“All of the above,” Vogel answered in response to what they’d miss most should Hill be held out. “[His] 3-point shooting, offensive play-making, size and length at the point guard position defensively.”
Hill isn’t convinced rest would do the trick because with this type of injury, you never know how long it really takes to get back to 100 percent. “If it’s feeling better by [Sunday] morning, then I’m sure I’m gonna ask coach if I can play. At the end of the day, it’s up to our training staff and them to know what’s best for me.
“Does rest help it? Certainly, yes it does,” Hill said. “Then again, we’re fighting for something bigger than this injury right now.”
And if Hill does play: “I can’t use the excuse of being injured. I got to come out with better energy and defend a lot better than how I’ve been defending. If I’m out there, I’ve got to give my team 110% percent.”
That’s the buzzword the Pacers floated around since they returned from an extremely successful 4-0 road trip out west. The term was first used to explain why they were playing so well. Next, ‘urgency’ was what they needed to clinch the division title, which they later did, only after a Bulls loss. Then, it was stated (and even written about) in terms of wrapping up the No. 3 seed in the East with a win over Brooklyn Friday.
Heading into Sunday’s afternoon contest with the New York Knicks, who’ve won 14 of their last 15 games, you guessed it — the Pacers need to play with urgency. Their level of urgency is as high as it’s been since the team started the season 10-11.
“When we get back in the games, we’re being active defensively, we’re changing the tempo and the pace of the game,” said David West. “We have to play with that urgency when it’s 0-0. We just have to do a better job in those moments when the game is there to be had.”
More on the same train of thought from Hill: “We got to come out and play with the same urgency that we’ve been playing with in the second half lately when we’ve been down 20. “I feel like if we play with that same urgency, we’re going to be up 20 on teams rather than down 20.”
That said, they’re also staying even keel.
“You’re never as bad as you look when you lose and you’re never as good as you look when you win,” Vogel said Saturday before the team left for New York. “Do what we do and it’s going to win more than it loses.
“We’re finding a formula throughout each of the last two games that can be overwhelming for teams. We’ve just got to do it for four quarters. We’ve got to play with that sense of urgency in the first quarter. We talked about it. We got to do it.”