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Sixers, Doc Rivers are relying more on experienced reserve guard George Hill in playoffs

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George Hill played reasonably well in the final 16 games of the 76ers’ regular season, averaging 6 points, 1.9 assists, 18.6 minutes and shooting .391 from 3-point range.

But in Sunday’s 125-118 first-round playoff victory over the Washington Wizards, Hill showed why president of basketball operations Daryl Morey acquired him in an NBA trade-deadline deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In addition to providing stability as a guard off the bench, Hill led all Sixers’ reserves with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting in 18 Game 1 minutes. He scored seven points in the first half, including a 3-pointer, when the second unit was in the midst of a difficult stretch and star center Joel Embiid only managed 10 1/2 minutes due to foul trouble.

“He’s going to be huge (in the postseason),” Rivers said. “He was great (Sunday). He settles the second group down. They had that one stretch where they were struggling a little bit and I thought George kind of took them over. You could see it.”

Philadelphia 76ers' George Hill, right, tries to get past Orlando Magic's Moritz Wagner, center, and Mo Bamba during a May 16 game.
Philadelphia 76ers' George Hill, right, tries to get past Orlando Magic's Moritz Wagner, center, and Mo Bamba during a May 16 game.

This is nothing new for Hill, who has been through 128 playoff games, highlighted by reaching the NBA Finals with the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers three years ago.

“I love the competitive side of basketball,” said Hill during a Tuesday Zoom call. “I love to win. To come here and be a part of this organization that has so much history and the city that has so much passion for its sports is a blessing.

“I’m just here to do my job the best I can. … I go out every day and try to lay it on the line because tomorrow’s never promised. But, at the same time, (I’m) having fun doing it.”

Compounding Hill’s importance to the Sixers is the lack of postseason experience from the other guard and wing bench options. Shake Milton (five), Matisse Thybulle (four), Furkan Korkmaz (10) and rookie Tyrese Maxey (one) have just 20 playoff games combined.

“It was something we targeted early in the season – that we needed one more veteran guard with this group,” Rivers said. “George is so relaxing, calming out on the floor.”

Rivers also appreciates how Hill has worked with the Sixers’ young players “since Day One.” Hill tends to take the young guys by the shoulders and move them where they should be while explaining why.

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“I just tell them each possession matters in the playoffs,” Hill said. “It’s not about any individual accolade or how many points you can get or rebounds – making the next play is what’s going to win in the playoffs.”

Hill and the top-seeded Sixers host the No. 8 Wizards in Game 2 on Wednesday night (7) before the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series shifts to Washington for Game 3 on Saturday evening (7) and Game 4 on Monday night (7).

Rivers didn’t hesitate to put Hill on the court at crunch time of the playoff opener, which starter Seth Curry and his teammates understand. Hill is a very good free throw shooter, decision-maker and a solid defender.

“We knew who he was when we brought him in,” Curry said. “Anytime you can add another guy who’s easy to play with, knows the game, is really unselfish whether he’s scoring or not, (and brings) the same mentality, the same intensity to the game, (it benefits everyone).

“You know what you’re going to get out of him. I think everybody on the team trusts him when he’s on the floor.”

The Wizards' Bradley Beal, right, tries to pass against the 76ers' Ben Simmons, left, and George Hill during Game 1.
The Wizards' Bradley Beal, right, tries to pass against the 76ers' Ben Simmons, left, and George Hill during Game 1.

Besides his steadiness at the offensive end, the 6-foot-4 Hill can defend numerous positions. He was matched up with Washington’s 6-10 Davis Bertans at times Sunday.

“He can guard (all over the place),” said Sixers swingman Danny Green. “He’s not as big of a guard, but he makes up for it with his arms, his length, his activity, how physical he is.”

Hill also makes good decisions when running the point and can also play off the ball, as well as shoot from distance and get to the rim. And he rarely forces anything.

That the surgically repaired right thumb that sidelined Hill three months in the middle of the regular season is back to normal has also benefited him and the Sixers.

“He’s a ball-handler for us,” Green said. “When he gets in the paint, he’s aggressive. … He gives us another weapon that is very useful down the stretch, for sure.”

Given all of the factors, Hill’s role is likely to increase as the Sixers progress in the playoffs.

Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes.com; @TomMoorePhilly

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Sixers, Doc Rivers have plenty of trust in experienced guard George Hill