Indiana Pacers point guard George Hill missed Thursday night’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks because of a concussion. Prior to the game Hill, who scored 26 points in the Pacers’ Game 4 win, showed concussion-like symptoms and failed to pass the NBA’s concussion tests.
Back-up D.J. Augustin started at the point in Hill’s absence, going a respectable 3-for-7 from behind the arc and scoring 12 points in Indiana’s 85-75 loss to New York.
Twelve points, while four points short of Hill’s playoff average, isn’t bad. Here’s what is bad: Augustin didn’t register a single assist in 39 minutes last night, and moving Augustin to the starting lineup depletes a Pacers’ bench that was already lacking. When Augustin is on the bench, the Pacers have the choice of either moving Lance Stephenson to the point or bringing Ben Hansbrough off the bench. Hansbrough didn’t see action last night.
Here’s what’s worse, at least for Pacers fans: Hill might not be coming back.
If a player is diagnosed with a concussion, he will have to complete a series of steps to confirm that he’s healthy enough for competition. Once he is free of symptoms, the player must make it through increasing stages of exertion – from a stationary bike, to jogging, to agility work, to non-contact team drills – while ensuring the symptoms don’t return after each one. Then the neurologist hired to lead the NBA’s concussion program needs to be consulted before the player is cleared.
The process will likely take at least several days, if not weeks.
Game 6 is tomorrow night in Indianapolis, and Game 7, if necessary, is scheduled for Monday night in New York.
Hill is listed as day-to-day, but the Pacers will need to come up with a liberal interpretation of the league’s concussion policy if they want their starting point guard back tomorrow. Indiana has a 3-2 advantage, but will struggle to close out the Knicks if Hill doesn’t return.
As much as I’d like to see George Hill back on the floor for Game 6, I appreciate the lengths to which the NBA has gone to prevent serious head injuries. You can catch Game 6 Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Central on ESPN.