How George Hill’s Presence Changes Sixers’ Lineups
George Hill didn’t fill up the stat sheet Monday night. In fact, his most memorable moment was biting on a Stephen Curry step-back three during another comically dominant performance from the Warriors guard.
In Hill’s defense, he hadn’t played an NBA game since Jan. 24. This was also his debut with a new team.
But the Sixers didn’t acquire the 34-year-old for a game against Golden State in April. They got Hill for the postseason to provide Doc Rivers depth and lineup optionality.
While nothing in the box score stood out and he was part of the opponent’s highlight reel, his new head coach was pleased.
“He actually looked great overall,” Rivers said postgame. “He’s a little rusty, but he’s just so darn smart and he did so many little things. I’m very happy to have him, let me put it that way. He’s going to really help us.”
Rivers was asked about putting Hill, who missed months of action after a procedure on his right thumb, on the scorching hot Curry. Rivers said it was Hill who actually asked for the assignment. While Curry went 3 of 5 when guarded by Hill – including that insane step-back late in the game – the veteran guard made him work, face guarding him and coming away with a pair of blocks.
Against a player that’s on a historic run like Curry, you can’t ask for much more.
“I just love to compete,” Hill said. “No matter what, I’m going to compete defensively, play as hard as I can, play the right way. I like the challenge. I think he’s on a historic run right now. He’s making tough shots from everywhere on the floor and he’s playing at that All-Star, that MVP-caliber that he’s been at for many years. I like the challenge and I like the opportunity. Just trying to get back in shape.”
At a few points in the game, Rivers went to lineups that featured one of the team’s centers playing with four guards. While it was partially out of necessity with Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris out, Rivers said it’s a look he plans to use.
When you consider the struggles of Mike Scott and the newness of Anthony Tolliver, going with four guards instead of a traditional four makes a lot of sense. Offensively, we’ve seen Matisse Thybulle take on the role of a four at times – setting screens, rolling to the rim, stretching out to the corner. The second-year pro has become more viable offensively to complement his elite defense.
But it’s Hill’s presence and versatility that makes this possible. Hill has been a true starting point guard on playoff teams. He’s played off-ball next to players like LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Considering how much the Sixers have lacked ball handling and creation in years past, it’s a welcomed change.
“That’s something we’re going to start doing,” Rivers said. “Having George Hill, he’ll give us an extra guard. You’ll see that a lot. We weren’t very good at it, honestly, even though we did make a run with it that one stretch. I thought we didn’t do a very good job in the first half with it, personally. But it’s absolutely where we want to go with our second unit.”
It was clear that Hill was passive offensively Monday night. He let Shake Milton run the show, and when Milton struggled, he got out of the way while rookie Tyrese Maxey led a nice second-half charge. Still, Hill drove to the basket a couple of times, one time recording his first basket as a Sixer and just missing on another.
It was almost weird to see a Sixers guard get to the basket with such ease. Couple that with the way Maxey was playing and finishing at the rim, and Sixers fans might’ve wondered if it was legal to have multiple guards with that ability.
While Hill was far from pleased with his debut, he sees the potential of this team and his role in it.
“I don’t think I played well,” he said. “It was great to be back out there with the guys, back on the court after three months off. Got a little way to go. Get in shape. But I like the style, I like the opportunity. Just got to take advantage of it.”
In a way, Hill can change the style the Sixers play at times.
And that’s a good thing.