Grant Hill deadly on both ends for Suns in Game 2

Maybe all the talk of the Suns needing more Amare Stoudemire motivated Grant Hill or maybe the veteran is just tired of his season ending after the first round of the playoffs.

Or maybe it was neither. Whatever it was, Grant Hill proved invaluable Tuesday night as the Suns took Game 2 from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Right from the start, Hill made his 37-year-old presence felt on both ends of the floor in 24 minutes of play. Hill finished 10-of-11 for 20 points, and he also grabbed eight rebounds while turning in one of the best defensive efforts of any player in the game.

“When we’re aggressive and playing actively on the defensive end, it carries over on the offensive end and vice versa,” Hill said. “And when we’re passive on one end, we tend to be passive on the other end.”

If Hill can be this effective in Game 3, it would probably behoove the Trail Blazers to devote a little bit of the focus they’ve put on Stoudemire to him.

While such a significant offensive contribution was an unexpected surprise, it was Hill’s defensive tenacity that changed this game. Switching up defensive assignments (and thus freeing up Jason Richardson to go off for 29 points and six rebounds), Hill took on the daunting task of guarding Portland’s Andre Miller, who went for 31 points and eight assists in Game 1.

“J-Rich guarded him (Miler) the other night and the one thing that I thought was we needed to free J-Rich up for offense, and it’s really tough guarding Andre,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after the game. “We decided we’d put Grant on him and thought the length would bother him a little bit, and we thought he’d be able to keep him in front of him.”

Hill made it look easy, holding Miller to just 12 points and three assists. Whether it was getting in Miller’s face, forcing him to settle for bad shots or getting physical with the 6-foot 2 point guard, Hill made life quite difficult.

“The defense I’ve kind of come to expect,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said of Hill’s night. “I take it for granted, but he’s phenomenal defensively, and tonight he was incredible offensively as well, a pretty nice all-around night.”

It would have made sense for Hill to dedicate most of his efforts to stopping Miller by necessity, but instead he made his first 10 shots. It wasn’t until the 4:22 mark in the third quarter that Hill missed a shot. And at that point, it was time to call it a night as Hill got some rest before heading to Portland.

“I thought it was a pretty special offensive night,” Nash said. “He made 10 shots in a row before he missed his last shot. That’s incredible.”

In 14 previous NBA seasons, Hill never won a playoff series. For a seven-time NBA All-Star, that is kind of one of those “Wait, really??” statistics. With this team, he’s probably got his best shot to make it beyond the first round.

Considering all that has happened to Hill in his storied career, it is astonishing that he can still come out on a given night and make such an impact in a playoff game. A lot of people are amazed that Nash is playing the way he is at 36 years old, but Hill is going on 38!

Obviously the defensive switch worked. Richardson’s ability to focus on his offensive game was crucial in Game 2, as it has been all season. I can’t see any reason the Suns won’t stick with it in Game 3.

“It was more so to free up J-Rich for his offense and get him going, and we thought that Grant would do a good job on him,” Gentry said.

One last thing to keep in mind: Hill did it in 24 minutes. That’s half the game, meaning he got to rest for half the game, which should leave him in pretty good shape for Thursday’s game in the Rose Garden.

Michael Schwartz contributed reporting.

Tags: Grant Hill Phoenix Suns Playoffs Portland Trail Blazers

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  • The Z. Man

    Hill was the difference in this game. VERY good move Gentry!!!! Set J-Rich free. Have a real pro focus on making the stop. Now, after our road loss, THIS is the time for Gentry to make another good move.

    Suns will not even beat a D-League team unless we score MUCH more than we did in game four. This offensive problem began when the Suns stopped moving the ball, after half time of the previous game. Then, it did not seem to hurt. This apparent lack of importance at THAT time was ONLY because we had such a HUGE lead at half time. Suns MUST now go back to a fast, familiar, comfortable pace. We must make them try to play Suns ball. Nash has ONLY FOUR guys that he can pass to, at any given time. Collins gives us ZERO. That means, with Collins as a starter, Nash is down to a choice of three team mates to look for on a pass. Nash would love to pass to STAT, off of their VERY effective pick & roll play. Problem is that, partially because Collins is in the low post, the Blazers have been able to clog the lane. So much for the pick & roll. This means that Nash must kick the ball out to an outside shooter who has a hot hand. With the pick & roll out, Nash is down to only two for his pass. Hill, like STAT, is best used when driving the baseline or the lane.

    With the middle so packed, ONLY J-Rich will be open for a makeable outside shot. Problem is solved ONLY WHEN J-Rich is feeling his shot. When J-Rich gets cold? Suns have ZERO. Pass to Frye? When he comes in for Collins, this seems to be a good idea. Last game, we lost a MUST game. J-Rich & Frye were BOTH ice cold. Barbosa had the hot hand. Poor coaching failed to take advantage of this fact. Not nearly enough playing time for the Brazilian Blur. In the playoffs, we can’t afford to lose. Play “TINY BALL” by pairing Leandro with his long time and familiar buddy Nash. J-Rich can move up to the three spot and Hill to the four. STAT, at the five spot, will be closer to the hoop and therefore be able to grab more boards and even Barbosa will get more rebounds than Collins’ ZERO. More points given up in the paint this way. But MUCH more than made up for with more steals and more fast breaks and MUCH MORE scoring. THIS plan will have the Suns scoring 110-140 each game. Do you think that Portland can keep up with this pace?

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!