Short-handed Suns stun Thunder
Grant Hill and the Phoenix Suns didn’t wait for their
reinforcements to arrive to try and get their season turned
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
”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
”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
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