Tag: Suns Blazers Game 2

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.

NBA Playoffs: The Suns strike back in Game 2 win over Blazers

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It was a no-win situation for Phoenix tonight. Lose, and they’re down 0-2 headed to the Rose Garden, facing a very real chance of being swept. Win, and they still can’t erase the poor performance they gave in Game 1. So the only real option is to win a no-decision by blowing the Blazers out of the water, off the map, into the void. And that’s exactly what they did.

You can point to Jason Richardson with 29 points on 16 shots. You can throw it at the feet of Steve Nash with 16 assists. But the real hero tonight for the Suns? Grant Hill. The old man came through in every possible way tonight, in what may have been the best performance of the last five years of his career.

Hill was 10-11 for 20 points, with 8 rebounds, a block, and zero turnovers. But his biggest contribution was in all the little ways that really changes a game. He contained Andre Miller, and when Miller did get by him, his team had man-help defense (gasp) to close things off. He drew charges. He brought consistency and confidence. He was a pro among amateurs on both sides of the ball.

Which is not to say that Steve Nash didn’t play brilliantly. It was one of those nights where Nash could get whatever pass he wanted. The Blazers just didn’t have it.

The Blazers likely don’t care. They got what they wanted, home court advantage back. The question will be how Nate McMillan adjusts to the adjustments of Gentry and what they do to free LaMarcus Aldridge, who was often swarmed high as soon as he got the ball. The Suns may not be a good defensive team, but they can get it done if they’re all locked in. Too bad for Phoenix they’re 1-1 in locked-in-ness in this series.