With the NBA trade deadline quickly approaching – February 20 — the rumors have begun swirling around the Indiana Pacers and specifically George Hill, but Friday night Hill put those trade rumors on notice.
A career-high 37 points is all Hill needed to quiet down his detractors. He hit a late second three-pointer to send the game into overtime and then continued pushing the Pacers to a 118-113 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers with five points in overtime.
Without Hill’s performance, the Trail Blazers would have cruised to victory. All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard had their way with the Pacers, combining for 60 points and 48 percent shooting from the field. Aldridge finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Lillard went toe-to-toe with Hill, scoring 38 points and dishing out 11 assists.
It’s not hard to see that Hill’s biggest weakness is guarding top-tier point guards and Lillard exploited that weakness. But even when the Pacers moved their best defender, Paul George, onto Lillard, he still lit up the scoreboard.
Speaking of George, he had another off night, which is becoming a common theme lately. Maybe it is the baby momma drama he is dealing with, but he has not been playing like the Paul George we saw at the beginning of the season. He finished with 17 points, four of those in overtime, six rebounds and seven assists.
Indiana was also missing their spark plug, Lance Stephenson. Stephenson sat out due to a sore back after the nasty fall he took against the Atlanta Hawks last week. It was obvious from the tip that the Pacers missed his energy as they came out slow and no one would push the fast break.
No game reaction would be complete without mentioning Mr. David West, who had his second-straight big game. West was unstoppable from the top of the key, draining 30 points worth of jumpers and grabbing 10 rebounds.
This victory pushed the Pacers league-best record to 39-10, 14-5 against the Western Conference, and a three and a half game lead over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers got revenge for their loss in Portland back in early December, a night when another Pacer, Paul George, had set a career-high points mark. These teams have played two of the best games in the NBA this season and it would be hard to find fans who wouldn’t want to watch seven more games between these two squads.