Posted May 4 2010 7:06AM
George Hill is going to have to pick up his defense against Steve Nash.
Or course, first he'll have to pick up his pride, his ego and probably a considerable number of lost uniform parts that left him so very exposed out on the floor against Nash.
If the Spurs were visitors to Planet Orange for the opening game of the Western Conference semifinals, then Hill made a side trip to the village of Black-and-Blue considering the way Nash whipped and beat him in Game 1.
"I don't know if I struggled," Hill said.
Everyone else does.
You could tell from the shock and awe that Hill was wearing along with a bit of windburn on his face.
It was not just the 33 points and 10 assists that Nash hung up in the Suns' 111-102 series-opening victory. It was the way that so many of them came with so easily, like a man floating down a stream while sipping an umbrella drink from a straw.
"You've got to make Nash work," said Tony Parker, which is one reason that Parker and not Hill opened the second half as a part of the starting unit.
It's early and the history of this blood feud between Phoenix and San Antonio tells us that there are at least a handful of flammable and bizarre occurrences lurking around the corner. But the first one told you that the Spurs will not be able to ultimately prevail against the Suns if Hill is not able to compete better against Nash.
Hill has been a revelation with his overall improvement and his poise from his rookie year. He's one of the main reasons the Spurs were able to survive this season with Parker spending so much time on the shelf due to injuries. But he has got to do better than nine points on 2-for-9 shooting in 33 minutes.
"I couldn't make a shot today," Hill said. "That's why it's a seven-game series. We'll watch film and get ready for the next one.
"Why did I struggle? I don't know if it was a part of just struggling. I didn't make shots. I had some open looks and that's how it goes. I don't think I really struggled. It just didn't go my way."
Things began similarly disappointing for Hill in the Spurs in the previous round in Dallas as he was victimized by Jason Kidd for 13 points and 11 assists. In the opening minutes of the second half, Hill went on a drive to the hoop and Kidd simply reached in and swiped the ball away. Mere seconds later, Hill was removed from the game and never returned. But Spurs and Hill did return in the series, which is how they wound up here in the desert seeking to advance their cause.
"He's a great player and I felt like I let him be the aggressor instead of me being the aggressor on defense," Hill said. "That's something I'm going to get better at and do a better job on Wednesday. I feel like tonight he did a great job of picking us apart and being aggressive.
"He's the head of the snake. He was phenomenal and we have to tip our hat to him."
The Spurs will likely make more of a team-wide effort to get the ball out of Nash's hands on offense.
"You never can do anything by yourself," Hill said. "It's always gonna be a team thing."
But it will also be up to Hill to make Nash defend more by being more assertive with his own offense.
"I have to attach him a little bit more so he just don't conserve his energy on the defensive end," he said. We got to make him work on both ends."
That was the message that the second-year point guard had delivered to him by the veteran Parker.
"I told George at halftime that you have to try to get Steve tired," Parker said. "You have to attack him, go at him and that will tire him out. You can't be letting him come down the court with all of his energy and going full speed. Steve Nash at full speed is tough and over the course of a game he's going to get good results. George will play better. I have confidence in him."
A question is whether Spurs coach Gregg Popovich might make a switch and put Parker back into the starting lineup.
"I'm not worried about that. I'm not thinking about that," Hill said. "Whatever Pop decides will be the right thing and that will be fine with me.
"We'll come back in here for Game 2 and things will be different, a lot of things ready to be better."
Hill will be standing at the head of that line.
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