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San Francisco

Every answer came with a grimace and a shake of Gordon Hayward's head.

The Jazz will play without point guard George Hill in Thursday night's Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals vs. Golden State, and his absence due to a toe injury will hurt them.

After the team's morning shootaround in downtown San Francisco, Hayward played along with the suggestions the Jazz are accustomed to this stuff, and they can ask the likes of Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto to raise their games. Wing players such as Hayward also can handle the ball and initiate the offense.

But this situation is hardly ideal, and Hayward knows it. The Jazz face enough of a challenge against Golden State, and Hill's absence makes the Warriors all the more daunting. Even if Hill couldn't stop Stephen Curry, who scored an easy 22 points Tuesday in a 106-94 win in Game 1, Hill could match part of his offensive production. And now he's out. Maybe this is the Jazz's compensation for the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin missing three-plus games of a first-round series against them.

Going forward, Hill's history of injuries this season has to affect how the Jazz view their future at his position as he becomes a free agent this summer. The Jazz have used 11 starting point guards since the February 2011 trade of Deron Williams, and they wanted Hill to become a permanent solution.

That's hardly the best description of his 2016-17 season. Hill missed 33 games during the regular season, with injuries from head to toe — including thumb, concussion, toe and groin. The Jazz went 18-15 in his absence, and they clearly need everybody healthy to have any shot at beating the Warriors even once or twice in this best-of-seven series.

Hill turned 31 on Thursday, and he expects to command a nice contract in free agency. The timing of his injury-riddled season is not good for him or the Jazz, though. Other than one season in Indiana, where he played only 43 games in 2014-15, Hill has been fairly healthy throughout his nine-year NBA career. But he's been bothered by a little bit of everything this season, and who knows whether the Jazz really can count on him in the future?

Coach Quin Snyder and Hill's teammates admire how he has played through his health issues, and they know he would be there Thursday night if he could. But he won't be there.

Hill has managed to stay in the lineup pretty much since late December, after missing most of that month with his toe injury. He was vital against Clippers, especially in Game 7. That series victory more than justified the low cost (a first-round draft pick) of acquiring Hill from Indiana, but the Jazz will have to pay a lot to keep him beyond this season. Is he worth the investment? Not if he's going to be gone, when the team needs him the most.

Twitter: @tribkurt

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