CLEVELAND — George Hill pulled disappearing acts in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, but the point guard was present and productive Saturday night in Game 3.
After hitting for double figures in three of four games during a sweep of Toronto in the semifinals, Hill managed only eight points in the first two games in Boston.
With the series shifting back to Cleveland, Hill responded, scoring 13 points and adding three assists, three rebounds and a steal in a 116-86 blowout victory over Boston. He was one of six Cavaliers in double figures.
“I said I gotta figure out how to make an imprint on the game, if it’s defensively, if it’s offensively, just be somebody out there that they have to respect and honor,” said Hill, who is averaging 9.9 points in 11 playoff games (10 starts). “Knowing that we needed some much-needed help from Game 1 and Game 2, I made it a priority to just be aggressive, drive to the basket and take shots with confidence.”
Hill was efficient from the start, scoring more points than anyone else on the floor other than LeBron James in an 11-point first quarter that saw him connect on four of seven shots — including 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
“I thought J.R. (Smith) and G-Hill did a good job of setting the tone early, being aggressive, playing with more pace, more force,” Cavs coach Ty Lue said. “I think it was just (Hill) playing faster. I think understanding what we needed from him. He’s been in the league for a while and he understands. He’s a vet.
“Just playing with more force, more pace, more speed. He did that early on in the game. I think he had, what, 11 points in the first quarter? We need that from him, to be aggressive, attacking the basket, taking his open shots. He did that for us tonight.”
Hill fueled the key fast start with a hand in the Cavs’ first nine points, driving for a layup for the game’s first field goal, then grabbing a rebound at the defensive end and dishing to Tristan Thompson for a dunk before burying a 3-pointer and assisting on a layin from James.
Hill’s 3-pointer with 3:21 left in the quarter put Cleveland up 27-11 and he hit another one from deep to give the Cavs a 30-13 lead with 1:54 remaining in the first half.
“George Hill was phenomenal from the start,” James said. “It’s very important for our guards to be aggressive. You saw G-Hill’s mindset to start the game.”
The Cavs had three days to prepare after a Game 2 loss in Boston on Tuesday. It served as rest and reflection time, according to Hill.
“It was much-needed rest for our bodies and things like that,” he said, “for our minds to watch film and figure out what we were doing so bad and what we were doing that was great. How we could fix the problem to get off to a good start. I think tonight was a great team effort.”
Now, the Cavaliers must figure out a way to carry the effort over into Game 4 on Monday, when they will have the opportunity to even the series at two games apiece.
“The only thing we can do is go home, pray and get ready for practice (today),” Hill said. “Figure it out and just try to come out with that same intensity, energy like we did today and try to do the same thing they did to us — take two at home.”
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