Whenever the Indiana Pacers come to San Antonio, it presents a perfect opportunity to reminisce the days where George Hill was the prodigious point guard of the future. Many fans, at the time, frequently floated Tony Parker’s name in hypothetical trade proposals to free up time for the young guard.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich hailed him as his favorite player.
Yet it was not Hill that stole the show in San Antonio’s 101-77 victory over the Pacers. Nor was it Kawhi Leonard, who the Spurs acquired by trading Hill on draft night. It was Hill’s running mate, his best friend on the team, DeJuan Blair.
Blair was the recipient of a Manu Ginobili assist at the end of the first quarter — a broken possession that wasn’t going anywhere — for his fourth point of the quarter. The four-year forward, capitalizing on the extra minutes created by the struggles of center Tiago Splitter, finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes.
Matched up with a similarly offensively challenge player in forward Tyler Hansbrough, Blair was able to simply operate as an effective pick-and-roll big. The six-foot-nine Hansbrough, while an effective rebounder in his own right, doesn’t pose the same matchup difficulties as someone like Dwight Howard, giving Blair the opportunity to snare three offensive rebounds.
The bench, collectively, outscored the Pacers backups 57-35. Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson, along with Blair, scored in double-figures.
Indiana, under pressure by the stingy Spurs defense, shot 34.2 percent from the field while gifting last year’s top-ranked offensive team with 19 turnovers. Aside from a couple of a moderate runs to keep the game respectable — including an 11-0 run in the second quarter — the Pacers’ offense continued to be ineffective without Granger.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel told the media prior to the game that the addition of Hill in the starting backcourt, he believes, improves the offense significantly. Hill tallied 15 points and six assists in 31 minutes, though he did so by missing 10 of 15 shots.
For now at least, Blair held the upper hand in their first regular season tilt.
Next opponent: The Spurs will travel Wednesday to Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Clippers. In three meetings last season, in which the Spurs were the road team, the Spurs won by an average of 5.3 points. The game will tip-off at 9:30 p.m CST and will be televised locally on KENS and nationally on ESPN.