MILWAUKEE — When the Milwaukee Bucks acquired veteran point guard George Hill in December, most assumed it was a move toward greater financial flexibility.
The 33-year-old was guaranteed just $1 million for next season while guard Matthew Dellavedova and forward John Henson, the two players general manager Jon Horst sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the deal, would have cost Milwaukee approximately $18 million — money the Bucks would need to resign forward Khris Middleton, guard Eric Bledsoe and center Brook Lopez.
Hill, though, has proven to be worth much, much more to this Bucks team, which takes on the Celtics Monday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Garden in Boston.
Appearing in all seven of Milwaukee’s playoff games, Hill is averaging 11.1 points on 53.7% shooting — including 40% shooting from 3-point range — while playing 24 minutes per contest.
His performance in Game 3 is a big reason why the Bucks regained home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series. With Bledsoe struggling with foul trouble and his shooting, and guard Malcolm Brogdon still out with a foot injury, Hill stepped up with 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting, four rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes off the bench.
“I just go out and try to do my job the best I can,” said Hill, who is averaging 13.3 points against the Celtics and has also done an exceptional job keeping Boston point guard Kyrie Irving in check. “If that’s playing defense as hard as I can or if that’s taking the opportunity to score I’ll do that, but it’s all about just winning the game no matter what happens. No matter how many I score or what I do, I just want to win.”
When Milwaukee took control of Friday’s game in the third quarter, Hill was right in the middle of the action, scoring nine straight points during a 14-2 Bucks run.
“That’s my man,” Bledsoe said. “I’m always proud of George. Coming in, picking up the slack. He came in, without Malcolm playing, and played a hell of a game.
“He’s been a vet in this league. He knows what it takes. He’s been to the championship. He’s been to the Eastern Conference finals. It’s no surprise what he’s doing.”
And that’s probably the biggest reason why Horst added Hill to the mix. While most of the roster has some playoff experience, Hill has 109 postseason games on his resume — including deep runs with the Sacramento Kings in 2010, the Indiana Pacers in 2013 and 2014, and again last season when the Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals before being swept by the Golden State Warriors.
He’s been where the Bucks want to go. He knows what it takes to get there and what needs to be done once they do.
“On the road in this environment, I think that’s when coaches and organizations talk about needing guys that have experience, that have been there, that understand what it takes,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “George Hill, his performance (in Game 3) is a prime example of that.”
Hill will likely see extended minutes again tonight because Brogdon — who hasn’t played since tearing his right plantar fascia on March 15 — remains unavailable. Budenholzer said the point guard has played five-on-five three times over the past few days and is making progress, but isn’t ready to return.
“He’s getting close,” Budenholzer said after the Bucks’ practice Sunday.