Thunder give way to Suns 113-110
By JEFF LATZKE
AP Sports Writer
By JEFF LATZKE
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Grant Hill and the Phoenix Suns didn’t wait for their reinforcements to arrive to try and get their season turned around.
Hill turned back the clock to score a season-high 30 points, Steve Nash added 20 points and 10 assists and the short-handed Suns snapped Oklahoma City’s five-game winning streak by beating the Thunder 113-110 on Sunday night.
Phoenix played while waiting for trade acquisitions Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus to join the team but found a way to edge past the Thunder down the stretch.
“I think guys are going to come out and play, obviously, anytime that happens,” Hill said. “Sometimes when you’re on the other side and you see that a team’s not at full strength, there’s a little bit of a letdown.”
The Suns were ahead most of the night but let a 13-point lead slip away before recovering to take the lead for good on Robin Lopez’s right-handed dunk with 6:45 left.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 28 points, and Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green scored 19 apiece for Oklahoma City, which got within a point in the final 7 seconds but never got the chance to take the lead as the teams traded foul shots.
The 38-year-old Hill scored 30 points for the first time since he had 39 for Orlando in a Feb. 27, 2005, loss to Miami. He also had a game-high 11 rebounds.
“It’s Benjamin Button all over again,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry quipped, referring to Brad Pitt’s movie character who got younger over time. Gentry even suggested Hill could get back to scoring 25 points per game if the Suns kept him for four more years
“Nothing surprises me that he does,” Gentry said. “Me personally, and I know I’m probably a little biased, but if anybody should be on the All-Star team this year, it should be him.
“The way he’s played, he has nothing to do with the fact that our record is not as good as we’d like it to be.”
After losing four of their last five games, the Suns overhauled their roster by trading Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to Orlando a day earlier. That left them undermanned until replacements arrive — possibly not until they play Miami on Thursday in Phoenix.
The good news: Nash came back after missing most of a loss to Dallas two nights earlier after he hurt his neck in a collision with Tyson Chandler.
Nash orchestrated the offense as usual and Hill surprised even himself with his offensive outing after he came in focused on trying to slow down Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer.
“I was really just thinking about defense and having a lot of energy and trying to chase around Kevin,” Hill said. “I wasn’t really thinking about scoring but I hit some shots early and got in a rhythm.
“Even though we lost two really skilled players and guys that we count on for scoring, we still can put up points. I thought the most important thing was we believed and we had good energy and fought hard.”
Lopez finished with a season-high 19 points and the Suns had six players score in double figures — Channing Frye had 12, Earl Barron added 11 and Josh Childress 10.
Lopez’s dunk started a burst of six straight points for Phoenix, with Nash adding a jumper and Hill hitting two free throws to make it 100-94 with 4:58 remaining. That provided just enough of a cushion for the Suns.
Durant twice got Oklahoma City within two points, but Nash set up a reverse layup by Childress and Frye spun for a two-handed jam that bumped the advantage back up to 106-100.
Durant brought the Thunder back again with a runner and a jumper in the lane, but he then had the ball stolen away by Childress with a chance for Oklahoma City to tie.
The Thunder didn’t get another similar chance until the final seconds, when Goran Dragic fouled Westbrook in the backcourt to try to protect a three-point lead. Westbrook tried heaving the ball toward the basket and earn three free throws, but officials ruled that he wasn’t shooting at the time of the foul.
Oklahoma City got one last chance after Frye missed the second of two foul shots with 2.4 seconds left, but Green’s desperation shot from halfcourt wouldn’t fall.
It was only the second loss for the Thunder in 14 games decided by seven points or less this season.
“This is a lesson learned for us,” Durant said. “Every game is a new experience. We have to get better.”
Phoenix scored the first seven points of the game and didn’t relinquish the lead until Westbrook fueled an 11-0 run by the Thunder late in the third quarter. Durant’s two-handed slam off James Harden’s alley-oop provided Oklahoma City with its first lead, and Westbrook followed with his third layup during the stretch to put the Thunder up 83-80.
There were three lead changes early in the fourth quarter before the Suns went ahead to stay.
“We cannot start the game off the way we did, but I think we did a good job of fighting,” Durant said. “We put ourselves in a position to win.”
NOTES: Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said starting C Nenad Krstic “felt much better” after a tougher workout Saturday and then had another workout Sunday. He still missed his fifth straight game with a lower back sprain. … Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle drew his second technical foul this season with 5:22 left in the first quarter. … For the second time in a week, a Thunder fan hit a halfcourt shot to win $20,000. Todd Lafferty banked in a towering shot during the break after the first quarter, one week after Robert Yanders did it in the second quarter of a game against the Cavaliers.
Updated December 19, 2010