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

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