Hill basically is a placeholder for whomever Nate McMillan chooses as his first sub – either Kevin Huerter, who has been excellent in the postseason, or Dino Gallinari, who has alternated good nights with some less good. Hunter was able to hold his own against the Knicks’ Julius Randle. Huerter isn’t quite as tall as Hunter; Gallinari isn’t as quick.
The good news: The Sixers’ strength isn’t their perimeter. Danny Green looks almost done. Seth Curry, brother of you-know-who, is a shooter. Ben Simmons is a point guard who has logged 29 playoff games without making a 3-pointer. It wasn’t as if McMillan was apt to ask Hunter to take Embiid one-on-one, though Hunter surely would have been part of double-teams, which in his absence haven’t done much good. Embiid scored 39 points in Game 1, 40 in Game 2.
Still, the Hawks led from start to finish in Game 1 and rallied from 18 down to nose ahead in Game 2, when a desperate Doc Rivers turned to the forgotten Shake Milton and got 14 game-breaking points. This team isn’t anywhere near done.
There’s a chance that Cam Reddish – drafted in the same 2019 lottery as Hunter – could play in the series. He has had a sore Achilles. His last action came Feb. 21, so long ago that Lloyd Pierce was the coach. Reddish has just returned to full practices. He’s 6-foot-8, the same height as Hunter, but they’re not the same type of player. Hunter is better on defense. Reddish is more creative with the ball. If he’s available, he would be an upgrade over Hill. He’d be someone the Sixers would have to guard.
Hunter will be missed. How much, we can’t know. Big picture-wise, the annual rash of playoff injuries has become a reason to cringe, though nobody can pinpoint a cause. Is it because the regular season is so long? (The biggest stars – from LeBron to Kawhi to Kyrie to KD – have come to care more about “load management” than non-playoff games.) Is it because the COVID-19 bubble took so much out of some players? (Though not the Hawks. They weren’t in it.)
Ah, well. This is sports. Guys get hurt. Next man up, and all that. Though it would be fascinating if the Hawks’ next man is Reddish.