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Nagging pain not about to keep guard Hill from playing


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Pacers guard George Hill talks to members of the media following practice Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Pacers guard George Hill talks to members of the media following practice Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

Pacers guard George Hill during practice Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Pacers guard George Hill during practice Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal


INDIANAPOLIS

George Hill has been hurting for more than a month.

Tormented by a sore left hip, he plays through the pain. Surgery won’t ease or fix it, but rest will.

Of course, he has no plans for that.

The former Broad Ripple High School and IUPUI star is enjoying the best season of his five-year NBA career. His contributions have been vital to the Indiana Pacers’ success. They are locked in a fierce semifinal playoff series against the New York Knicks.

Game 3 is tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

 

Rest? It can wait until the postseason ends.

Until then, Hill intends to play — at his signature high-energy pace — despite persistent soreness that radiates from hip to groin.

“You learn to deal with it. At this point, I really want to be in there, no matter if I’m injured or not,” said Hill, who is winding down his second season with the Pacers. “At the same time, it’s getting better. It’s not going to get all the way better until after the season, and then I’ll worry about it after that.

“But right now there’s no need to try to blanket it or baby it it, just go out there and play the game.”

Fortunately for the Pacers, Hill has continued to play at a consistently efficient level.

A shooting guard by nature but a point guard by necessity, the versatile Hill averaged career-highs during the regular season of 14.2 points, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Despite his injury, which he reaggravated in Game 1 of the first-round series against Atlanta, his numbers are actually up a tick in the playoffs.

Through eight postseason games, Hill is averaging 14.6 points, 4.9 assists and 1.1 steals. He has scored in double figures seven times and poses an equal threat from 3-point range and in the lane.

He is also a tenacious defender whose soft-spoken demeanor belies a mental toughness the Pacers rally around.

Asked by a reporter after a recent practice whether the Pacers had the confidence to rebound from Tuesday’s lopsided Game 2 loss at Madison Square Garden, Hill was genuinely taken aback.

“That’s a crazy question. That’s what this team is made of,” Hill said. “All year long, when things happen we have adversity, we rise to the occasion, coming out the next game trying to prove a point. I’m sure this team is going to be amped up (tonight). I’m sure our building’s going to be alive.

“We just have to take it one game at a time.”

With the series knotted at 1-1, tonight’s winner can take command. A Knicks victory would restore to them home-court advantage. A Pacers triumph would give them substantial breathing room in advance of Tuesday’s Game 4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Hill knows the Pacers did themselves a huge favor by taking Game 1 in New York. He also knows their lethargic Game 2 performance was out of character — one they can ill-afford to repeat in what is expected to be a capacity, gold-clad home crowd.

“It’s fun. We’re excited about this,” Hill said. “We’re disappointed in the way we played, so it’s going to be good to get back out here with our home crowd. I’m sure this stadium’s going to be jumping. Now we just have to take care of our business and protect the home floor, and we should be good.”

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