Not quite over the Hill

The Spurs ousted the Mavericks from the playoffs tonight, and I can’t say I’m surprised. All that talent — championship-caliber talent, to be sure — and Dallas still couldn’t come away with a victory.

And many believe that’s the franchise’s window for a title has now closed. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, and Jason Kidd will all be another year older come next year’s playoffs, and this disappointing first-round exit makes me wonder if Dallas would have been any worse off holding on to Devin Harris and two first-round draft picks.

Revisiting the series, now: while the achievements and talents of the Spurs’ Big 3 cannot be understated, the key to this defining series win for the Spurs was Mr. George Hill.

The second-year point guard from IUPUI made great strides in his sophomore campaign; he even played well enough to flirt with some attention for the league’s most improved player of the year award. After averaging under six points and 2 assists on 40 percent shooting in his rookie season, Hill countered with rates of 12.4 points and 2.9 assists on 48 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three.

Hill filled in admirably for Tony Parker when he was injured and kept the seventh-seeded team alive for the playoffs. And that’s when he really came alive.

Popovich elected to start Hill at point guard in the Dallas series, as Parker was still recovering from injuries, so Pop didn’t want to force that.

To be honest, Hill’s start to the series was brutal. He shot just 2-9 in the series’ first two tilts and was held scoreless in the first.

Then he took off.

In the most recent four games, he averaged a shade under 20 points a contest on 55 percent shooting. In addition, he hit a number of timely three-pointers and other tough shots to secure the series for the Spurs.

Moving on, I’m sure Hill is going to get a lot more attention after his performance. He certainly won’t get as many open threes as he did against Dallas. But for now, it looks like San Antonio made the right decision in not shipping Hill off in any trades over the last couple years. He should be an elite player in the league.

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Hardwood Paroxysm