George Hill, Hawks’ Teague Familiar Foes
Roy Hibbert and Pero Antic have been at the center of storylines in Indianapolis leading up to the Pacers and Atlanta Hawks’ First Round pairing, but the series begins at the point guard position with two Indiana kids.
George Hill, a Broad Ripple High School grad, and Jeff Teague from Pike. Hill is two years older but with one additional year of NBA experience.
Everything the Hawks do — get up and down, space the floor, and pile up the second-most assists in the league (24.8apg) — starts with Teague.
“The whole defensive game plan is keeping him out of the paint,” coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s the toughest challenge we’re going to have.”
Much of that responsibility will fall on Hill, who has had success containing him this season. Teague has below-average numbers in four showings this season, 14.3 points and 4.3 assists. Two times he was held below 10 points. In their last meeting (April 6), however, Teague exploded for 25 points in Atlanta’s 19-point win.
“We got to keep this team out of the paint,” said Pacers swingman Paul George.
Hill prefers not to get into head-to-head matchups, saying it’s much more than that.
“I don’t honestly believe that one guy can stop another guy like that,” he said. “You have very few in this league. Everyone’s a professional for a reason so I don’t think it’s just going to take me, but it’s going to take a collective group of our whole team; being in their right spots, being in their right frame of mind knowing that we always have to stop the ball first. No one else can score without the ball.”
Meanwhile, Hill’s got to produce on the offensive end. He has attempted just eight shots over the last three games, making three of them. After not attempting a shot, even a free throw, in 33 minutes against Miami, Hill sat down with Vogel to re-watch the tape.
“Figuring out ways to be aggressive in the flow of the offensive,” Hill said of what they focused on.
Since the Pacers aren’t a point-guard dominated offense, he has to find ways to get the offense moving. More so than usual, the always-hyped Lance Stephenson has handled more of those duties recently.
“I just got to continue to be myself and play aggressive,” said Hill. “All my struggles have been me not just being aggressive, me not taking shots. When I only get one or two shots, that’s my fault. I just have to do better staying engaged in this offense.”
As three of the other starters sat in Wednesday’s season finale, he and Roy Hibbert, two necessary factors in this playoff series, played in the first half to stay fresh and (hopefully) regain some confidence.
Hill has faced much scrutiny for his play this month. On Thursday, he cleared his mind by doing what he thoroughly enjoys: fishing. The 27-year-old took advantage of a nice spring afternoon by getting fresh air and tossing his line into a couple spots in the city. And yes, he did have some success.
And while Hibbert’s matchup is most intriguing and his returning to form is key for a long playoff run, Hill’s head-to-head clash with Teague may be most critical. Heading into Game 1 Saturday night, Hill feels good about where both he and the team is at.
“The last couple of days of practice have been some great practices,” Hill said. “Guys have worked really hard. This is when the real season begins. It’s 0-0 now, it’s first team to 16.”