There have been a few constants throughout George Hill’s home playoff performances during the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.
Of course, there’s his scoring and overall offensive aggressiveness. But along with anything he’s been doing on the court at Quicken Loans Arena, there’s also what he has been doing off the court: most notably, what he’s eating.
Prior to the Cavaliers’ 109-99 Game 6 win over the Boston Celtics, Hill went with his go-to pregame meal.
“It sounds funny, but I had to go find my Chipotle barbacoa,” he said after the game on Friday night. “I’m up two games — well, the three games here, that’s what I ate before the game.” (His order, by the way: tacos with barbacoa and guacamole, “that’s it.”)
The meal certainly gave Hill a necessary mental boost on a night where the Cavs needed him after Kevin Love went down in the first quarter. Hill put up 20 points, a personal high in this year’s playoffs, and also dished out three assists and grabbed three rebounds.
From the opening tip, Hill was looking to attack the paint early and often. As we have seen repeatedly since his arrival in Cleveland at the February trade deadline, that aggressiveness gave the Cavs new life and kept the Boston defense uncomfortable. Ultimately, it was a real difference-maker in an elimination game.
“I took it upon myself to just put myself in situations where I can be aggressive,” Hill said. “It’s kind of like that moment where you don’t want to go home. It’s not time to go home. I think the adrenaline kicked in where I had that pressure and I was saying, ‘I’m not going home today.’”
His performance in Game 6 continued a puzzling pattern for Hill in this series — his production on the road versus his production at home. Through three home wins, Hill is averaging 15.3 points on 10.7 field goal attempts, 2.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds. In TD Garden in three losses, he’s averaging just five points on 4.3 shot attempts, one assist and one rebound per game.
The disparity is something that Hill himself struggles to explain. But more than anything, he thinks it is all due to his mindset.
“The thing that they say, if the jump shot is not falling, be aggressive,” he said. “I felt like the last couple games in Boston, I may have settled a little bit for a couple jump shots or kind of went away and didn’t assert myself in the offense.
“Just take it upon myself of trying to be there for my teammates, knowing that my play from last game was unacceptable. First thing I did was just try to get to the basket, get some easy looks. I think driving to the basket opens up the feeling of your game with jump shots going in.”
Driving to the basket also oftentimes ends up facilitating the offense not just for Hill, but for other Cavs. It also takes pressure off of LeBron James.
“We need that out of George,” Kyle Korver said after Game 6. “He’s just being aggressive. We need whoever has the ball to be attacking the basket. It can’t just be LeBron all the time. But that’s kind of how we play. We need to get the ball in someone’s hands and attack the basket to try to create things for other people. George is phenomenal.”
The Cavs may need James to once again play hero ball if they are going to advance to a fourth straight NBA Finals. But as Hill said, he and the other role players also understand that they need to come out and do their jobs.
“[LeBron]’s going to play his game,” Hill said. “He’s going to do what he does. We have to take it upon ourselves, be ready to play from the jump ball and give it all we’ve got out there. We can’t focus on sitting in the backseat waiting on him to insert us into the offense. We have to go get it.”
And if Hill can find a little of the mojo in Boston that he has had in Cleveland, it could end up giving the Cavs a series win, even if Love is out. The good news is, he already has his first step in Game 7 preparation down.
“I’m for sure going to find a Chipotle in Boston,” he said. “I’ll tell you that.”