Red-hot George Hill leads Jazz into rematch with Spurs

Red-hot George Hill leads Jazz into rematch with Spurs

SALT LAKE CITY — Moments after the Utah’s rare win at San Antonio on Tuesday night, Jazz point guard George Hill and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met on the court.

They both smiled. They both embraced. They both have fond memories of their time together earlier in Hill’s career.

“I just told him I love him, like always,” Hill said. “Pop is one of the best people that has ever come into my life. I just asked him how life is going and see how he’s doing, then tell him I love him, then I’ll see you later.”

Now in his ninth NBA season, the IUPUI product’s pro career began when Popovich and the Spurs drafted him late in the first round, 26th overall. The 6-3 playmaker was brought in to be All-Star Tony Parker’s primary backup.

That experience with the Spurs set Hill on a solid path for success. He quickly immersed himself into an integral role and averaged double figures in scoring with San Antonio in his second and third years before getting traded to Indiana in exchange for Kawhi Leonard.

While Leonard has blossomed into an MVP-type player, Hill has carved out a very nice career and is now playing like the Jazz’s team MVP.

Heading into this rubber match between the Spurs and the Jazz, Hill is averaging a team-best 21.4 points and 4.6 assists with 3.0 rebounds.

Although intensely competitive, Hill has a calm approach to the game. That’s reflected in his ball security. He’s averaging only 1.4 turnovers a game, which is low for somebody who handles the ball a lot during his 35 minutes an outing.

“Pop instilled that in me during my first three years here,” Hill said at San Antonio before the Jazz returned home to beat Dallas the following night. “Don’t show that much emotion unless it is a part of the game, like you’ve been there before. That’s what I try to instill in the guys, that we should just move on to the next play, just try to make something happen.”

Popovich was impressed with Hill’s big game against his old team in his old stomping grounds. The Jazz will likely need another strong performance from the 30-year-old to help compensate for the team being without key players Gordon Hayward (finger), Alec Burks (ankle) and Boris Diaw (leg).

“He played great, especially down the stretch,” Popovich said of Hill. “He was very controlled, ran the show, obviously made shots. He was great.”

With Hayward sidelined, Hill has taken on a scoring and leadership role for the Jazz. He’s dropped in at least 18 points in all five games and has scored 22 or more three times.

While Utah had to return to Vivint Arena for a back-to-back matchup against the Mavs, the Spurs have been off since their 106-91 loss to the Jazz at the AT&T Center three days ago.

“The fact that they just beat us is hopefully going to fuel us. It’s going to be an important game for us,” Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said. “We want to change the image that stayed in our head after this game. Hopefully we are much better, more aggressive from minute one, and we get a win there.”

JAZZ NOTES: It didn’t take long for Utah to take advantage of having its own D-League affiliate in town. The Jazz assigned rookie power forward Joel Bolomboy to the SLC Stars on Thursday. … Jazz forward Boris Diaw underwent an MRI and an examination by team physicians on Thursday. It was confirmed that Diaw has a right leg contusion. He will not play Friday night, missing his third consecutive game. … Jazz players will wear “Hoops for Troops” shooting shirts and socks to commemorate Veterans Day during Friday’s Military Appreciation Night game. Military personnel will be honored throughout the game and an enlistment ceremony will take place at halftime.

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Published at Fri, 04 Nov 2016 01:50:00 +0000