INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Pacers won't know until Saturday night whether point guard George Hill will start in Game 6 against New York.
Hill participated in the team's morning shootaround, which is part of the process of passing his concussion test. But doctors had not yet cleared Hill to play.
"He just did some work today. He looked fine, but he has to do more tests this afternoon," coach Frank Vogel said. "There's a long list of things that's part of the NBA's protocol. He's in the middle of that process. He's not ruled out, not cleared to play. He's a game-time decision."
Vogel said he was preparing to play without Hill.
Hill scored 26 points Tuesday night in Game 4 after a first-quarter collision with Knicks center Tyson Chandler. Two days later, after the team's shootaround, Hill was still complaining of headaches. Team doctors then diagnosed him with a concussion, forcing him to sit out Game 5. His replacement, D.J. Augustin, played nearly 39 minutes and had no assists as the Pacers lost 85-75. The win allowed New York to climb back within 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.
Indiana gets a second chance to close out the series Saturday at home, where they are 5-0 in the postseason and have won all five games by double digits.
Vogel has not said who will start Saturday if Hill does not play.
"We prepare for guys to be out. D.J. Augustin, Ben Hansbrough. Lance (Stephenson) understands that he has to play some (point guard)," Vogel said. "They've prepared for that all year. . Mentally for those guys, knowing might help them a little bit."
The Knicks aren't sure what to expect, either.
Coach Mike Woodson told reporters Friday that his team was preparing as if Hill would play. At Saturday's shootaround, Woodson explained he wasn't sure what to expect, though the Knicks couldn't let that affect them in Game 6.
"It doesn't matter who plays for them. We've still got to do what we do. It's about what we do at this particular time," Woodson said.
Will the decision about Hill make a difference in this series?
"Finding out literally an hour or two hours before the game (Thursday) is a rough spot to put a guy in. For all of us, really," Pacers forward David West said. "We had to change some of the things we were accustomed to doing, take some of George's stuff out of the package. But again, we're prepared. Had a good day yesterday, a good day today. Our focus is where it needs to be."
D.J. Augustin replaced Hill in the lineup Thursday and the Pacers struggled. They finished with 19 turnovers and wound up losing 85-75, a victory that got the Knicks within 3-2 and sent the series back to Indy for Game 6. Augustin played nearly 39 minutes and scored 12 points with no assists.
When asked what he would do Saturday if Hill couldn't play, Vogel replied curtly, "No comment," before explaining he didn't want to give away his game plan, a comment that drew chuckles.
If Augustin doesn't start, one possibility would be using All-Star Paul George at the spot. Vogel did that at times in Game 5 and George responded with a double-double - 23 points and 10 rebounds - and six assists.
"Honestly, I felt like having the ball in my hands put me in rhythm and the shots started falling for me," George said.
That's something the Pacers certainly need. They've only closed out three playoff series at home since 2000: last year against Orlando; in 2000 against Milwaukee in the first round and against New York in the conference finals.
And they don't want this chance to slip away regardless of who is healthy and who isn't.
"Here is where we really want to end it," George said. "If not, it will really be up for grabs."
The Knicks understand, too.
They've spent most of the series trying to rally after losing Game 1 at home, and with time running short on the comebacks, Woodson knows this is no time to play games. His lineup changes helped New York stabilize its struggling offense in Game 5, which they led from wire-to-wire.
With or without Hill, New York must play the same way Saturday at Indiana, where they're 0-4 this season, or they'll be heading home for the summer instead of going home for a decisive seventh game.
"Again, we've got to validate what we did last night," Woodson said. "That was a must-win; our backs were against the wall. They still are. When we lost Game 1, we knew right then and there that the only way to get out of this series was to go get one at Indiana and this is our last chance."