The news surrounding George Hill’s concussion sent shockwaves throughout the pressroom prior to Game 5. Hill was fresh off a spectacular 26-point outing in Game 4, which propelled his squad to a home victory and 3-1 series advantage on Tuesday night.
Without Hill in the lineup on Thursday, DJ Augustin assumed point guard duties for the Pacers and Lance Stephenson handled the rock at various times throughout their loss at the Garden. Augustin and Stephenson combined for 16 points, two assists, and three turnovers. Additionally, Indiana’s All-Star Paul George was forced to play point forward at times, resulting in four of the Pacers 19 turnovers.
The ripple effect of Hill’s absence was glaring for Indiana. Augustin is comfortable in a reserve role off the bench considering he only started five games this season and only averaged 16 minutes per game. He logged 38 minutes on Thursday night.
Stephenson was completely out of whack in a 1-of-7 performance from the floor and just four points. Inside Indiana’s locker room, Stephenson expounded on the loss of Hill for Game 5, “He is a big part of the team. Just by him being on the floor and creating and being aggressive. It was a big loss tonight.”
On the flipside, Raymond Felton did not feel the pressure to matchup against Hill on both ends of the floor. In the second half of Game 5, Felton dropped 10 points, grabbed five boards, dished out four assists, and did not commit a turnover. He flourished at a crucial moment in the elimination contest against a smaller and less athletic opponent.
The chess game will continue on Saturday night, as both teams will anxiously wait to find out Hill’s status. From all reports Hill will have to undergo a series of concussion tests to receive clearance for Game 6. If Hill can’t suit up, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel may turn to Ben Hansgrough to direct the offense.
Hill is not Indiana’s best player but he is an essential piece of its puzzle. There’s no doubt the Knicks will own an advantage in the backcourt without Hill on the opposite side of the floor. Stay tuned for a highly anticipated pregame press conference, which could ultimately determine the fate of two teams.