Grant Hill is a defensive stopper. I repeat, Grant Hill is a defensive stopper.

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As Matt Moore mentioned in our recap of Suns-Blazers Part Deux, the most compelling part of the Suns’ adjustments to topple the Blazers was Alvin Gentry’s decision to drape Grant Hill on Andre Miller. Jason Richardson had primary Miller duties for most of Game 1, but obviously wasn’t too successful: ‘Dre dropped 31 points and eight assists.

Hill doesn’t have too many athletic advantages over Richardson: J-Rich is about eight years younger, was once the proud owner of moon boots, and has occasionally been regarded as a decent defender. So naturally, when Richardson failed in defending Miller, Hill was a no-brainer. From Bob Young of the Arizona Republic:

He dogged Miller on the defensive end, limiting him to 12 points on
4-of-11 shooting. And just for good measure, Hill hit his first 10
shots to finish with 20 points and eight rebounds as the Suns evened
the series with a dominating 119-90 victory at US Airways Center.

“I wasn’t even thinking about offense,” Hill said. “I was really
just focusing on defense and trying to be effective on that end. I came
out and (assistant coach) Dan (Majerle) told me I was 10 for 11. I
didn’t even know that.”

Asked to recall the last time he’d had a game like that in the playoffs, Hill laughed.

“That was a whole other lifetime – back when I could jump a little bit,” he said.

Hill’s own offense is something likely to get lost in the praise of his defense, but his 20-point night can’t be disregarded. Nor should one discount Jason Richardson’s 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting, as Alvin Gentry noted Richardson’s offense as a factor in the decision to move him off of the Andre Miller assignment. It’s hard to say if that’s just a polite explanation by a coach looking to defend his player’s ego or a legitimate explanation for his decision-making, but the numbers tell the story in this case. Richardson was highly effective and Miller was not, and plenty of credit goes to Gentry for switching things up.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.