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.