The Indiana Pacers hope to get an assist from a familiar face in their efforts to snap out of their recent funk.
George Hill, an Indianapolis native who played for the Pacers from 2011-16, and Jordan Nwora are expected to be available for action Monday night when Indiana hosts the Utah Jazz. The two players were traded to the Pacers last week ahead of the deadline.
“Looking at things bigger than basketball, like I said, it’s a place that I always wanted to be,” Hill said after the trade. “I don’t think I ever (wanted) to leave when I got traded out of here. I just think it’s a great opportunity. I think it’s a great situation. But, you know, puts me close to family and friends in a city that I love.”
The Pacers made the Eastern Conference finals twice and were in the playoffs four times during Hill’s first tenure in Indy. His former teammates are looking forward to the reunion, too.
“He was my OG when I first got to the league, man,” Pacers center Myles Turner said. “And I think he’s going to be really good for this locker room. He fills a much-needed void for us as far as a veteran voice and what not. I’m glad to have him back. He was one of the vets that treated me right.”
Indiana is in desperate need of a shot in the arm on the court. The Pacers have lost four straight and 15 of 17 since going 23-18 in the first half of the season.
Utah beat the Pacers in the first matchup of the season 139-119 in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2. Although the Jazz also went through an overhaul leading up to the trade deadline, the team still has the key players from that win.
In that game, Lauri Markkanen scored 24 points with five 3-pointers and 13 rebounds, Walker Kessler totaled 20 points and 11 rebounds, Jordan Clarkson had 19 points and Collin Sexton chipped in with 18 points.
“I thought our guys maintained their aggressiveness,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said after the December game. “Our pace didn’t slow down.”
The Jazz are coming off an interesting weekend in the aftermath of trading Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Utah rallied in the final minutes to overcome a double-digit deficit in a win at Toronto on Friday and then played the Knicks well in New York before falling 126-120.
Clarkson tied New York at 109 late in the fourth quarter before Jalen Brunson, who had 38 points, sparked a game-clinching spurt for the Knicks.
It was another testament of the resilience of this overachieving Jazz squad.
“Madison Square Garden, it’s tied, four minutes left, the place is rocking,” Hardy said. “It’s a great environment for our team and we relish those moments. Obviously we wish we could have executed better down the stretch.”
The Jazz, however, have lost four of five games and are 1-1 on a four-game Eastern road trip.
–Field Level Media