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Hill likely to be a key player in Spurs-Suns series


NEW YORK — The Spurs have ended the Suns’ season like clockwork . . . four times in their last five playoff appearances.

It’s well-documented the lone time the tables were turned (2000), Tim Duncan was absent due to injury.

Though not the defensive juggernaut it used to be, San Antonio is going to drag you down to its pace no matter what. Phoenix better be prepared to trade stops with the Spurs instead of trading baskets.

George Hill is the league’s biggest bargain ($1.08 million) next to Aaron Brooks ($1.1 million). He’s one of those guys who comes to life in the spring, one look in his eyes and you can tell he’s an assassin.

The kid is fearless, plays so under control and embraces taking big shots. Considering his teammates that’s a hell of a statement.

Hill is going to be the opponents’ custom-made playoff daydreams for the next decade. The ball is going to kick out to him in the corner at crunch time, everybody on the other team is going to scream, “Oh no, don’t leave Hill!!!” and he’s going to close the deal just like Robert Horry, Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, etc.

Only Hill’s ceiling is higher than just being a role player who hits big shots.

If you’re discussing clutch shooters, be sure to leave out Shawn Marion of the Mavericks.

Did you see him short arm that wide open 4-meter shot from the baseline in the fourth quarter of Game 6 against the Spurs?

No wonder Dirk Nowitzki is having second thoughts about remaining with Dallas. Marion is on Mark Cuban’s books for $33 million over the next four seasons.

I think the Spurs are a bad matchup for the Suns in general (can’t wait to see Jason Richardson and Manu Ginobili go at it), and a terrible one if Robin Lopez can’t go.

One way or the other, Tim Duncan is going to have his way in the post. Gregg Popovich is unafraid to go small against them with Tony Parker, Manu and Hill on the court together. They might even prefer it.

San Antonio will do what it always does against Phoenix — try to turn Steve Nash into a scorer, let Stoudemire (three rebounds in Game 6?) get just about whatever he wants, stay at home on the 3-point shooters at all costs, and slow down Truck Robinson.

Just wanted to see if you’re paying attention.

One thing is for sure; the Suns play about 10 times better defense under Alvin Gentry than they did under Mike D’Antoni.

If I’m Cavs coach Mike Brown, I’m sneaking Leon Powe in for a few minutes just to see what happens.

Why was Portland’s Andre Miller not starting and getting the bulk of the minutes when everyone in the country knew Brandon Roy could not possibly be 100 percent so soon after knee surgery?

It’s an upstanding attitude to want to be out there with your teammates when they fall, as Roy said. It’s also self-centered and inconsiderate.

As noted in forethought, the Blazers would have been better off playing fully healthy players even if they were less talented than Roy.

Was this Paul Allen’s decision?

Larry Miller’s? Nate McMillan’s?

Kevin Pritchard’s?

A consensus?

I would love to hear Andre Miller’s uncensored thoughts on the matter.

Forget about the stiffs in the fancy suits, the Ferragamo shoes, the bling and rehearsed responses. This Jerry Sloan character would come to work in coveralls if Stern allowed him.

“Well guess what,” announcer Eddie Doucette accentuates, “they have a Sloan clone sitting at the head of the Bucks bench. Scott Skiles has taken a bowl full of loose Jell-O and firmed it into a rather tasty product.”

Here’s some unsolicited advice for the fine people of the Gulf: If you want to rid yourself of the ever-growing environmental hazard, do what they did in East Rutherford, N.J., . . . send it to Newark.

* * * * *

So, eight first-round series produced one Game 7, with the bloodshot eyes of a nation turned to Atlanta to see the Hawks eliminate the Bucks on Sunday.

Fitting, since this is the one series the league couldn’t wait to pawn off on TNT or NBA-TV. Now, over the air and away we go.

To suggest short-stacked Utah whipped short-tempered Denver is, in theory, correct. To suggest the Nuggets contributed so mightily to their own demise is even more on point.

Remember the absence of George Karl when people refer to the NBA as a player’s league.

As for the Lakers, you have to admire how they retrieved their lagoon legs just in time on Friday.

After the Thunder rolled 10 consecutive points to go from seven down to three up with 2:30 left, L.A. righted the ship with some stops and an obscenely open Pau Gasol putback.

Of course, we couldn’t put the series to bed without one last shot at the change of venue jurisprudence. Kevin Durant, a ghastly 5-for-23 from the field notwithstanding, managed to get to the line more (14-for-15) than the entire Laker legion (9-for-14).

In the first two games at the Staples Center, the home team’s advantage was 34-12 and 48-28,

For simply pointing that out, David Stern fined me $35,000.

This just in: Moments after John Calipari made an appearance at the Kentucky Derby, the NCAA put Churchill Downs on probation.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.