Suns look to continue surge against Wizards
By BRETT HUSTON
STATS Senior Writer
It might be too early to tell if the Phoenix Suns’ recent revival is merely a mirage, but Grant Hill’s appears to be anything but.
Hill looks to continue his scoring surge while helping the visiting Suns win a season-high fifth straight overall and ninth in a row over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
Hill was among several Suns that struggled after the trade that brought in Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat last month, with the team dropping seven of the first nine with its new lineup.
Hill averaged 11.4 points – 3.6 below his season average – and 43.2 percent shooting in the first eight games of that stretch before spraining his knee Jan. 9.
He missed the next two games, but the NBA’s third-oldest active player has looked rejuvenated since returning. Hill recorded 21 points in a 115-111 win over Portland last Friday, scored 25 in a 129-121 victory at New York on Monday and had 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Suns beat Cleveland 106-98 on Wednesday.
“I think, at first (after the trades), I was a little more tentative, trying to get these guys involved and trying to figure them out,” Hill said. “I think the (two games) out, you can certainly learn and watch them. I realized that I had to continue to be aggressive and look for my stuff.”
Hill hadn’t scored more than 20 points in three consecutive games since Dec. 16-22, 2006, with Orlando. The last time he topped the 20-point mark in four straight was March 19-26, 2005.
“I feel fresher and the rest of my body, before (Wednesday), felt really good,” Hill said. “Maybe if there is a lockout, I can play in Europe once a week. I might be able to excel over there.”
Hill has averaged 9.0 points in his last five games against Washington (12-28), but that hasn’t hurt the Suns (19-21). They’ve won the last eight matchups by an average of 17.6 points, scoring 117.0 per contest while shooting 53.0 percent.
Hakim Warrick had 26 points while Steve Nash added 20 and 17 assists in a 125-108 home win over the Wizards on Dec. 5, but Washington getting throttled on the road is nothing new. The Wizards dropped to 0-20 away from home Wednesday with a 100-87 loss at Milwaukee.
“At home, we’ve got so much energy and extra bounce in our step on defense. On the road, it’s horrible,” said rookie John Wall, who finished with 10 points and 13 assists. “There’s little stuff that we do at home that we don’t do on the road.”
Mostly, they don’t play defense. Washington gives up 108.4 points per game on the road compared to 96.4 at home, where they’ve held seven of their last nine opponents to less than 100.
The Wizards have won four straight at the Verizon Center and have taken care of business versus sub-.500 opponents. They’re 10-2 on their home floor against teams that currently have losing records.
The biggest reason for Washington’s home success has been Nick Young. Since entering the starting lineup the night of the trade that sent Gilbert Arenas to Orlando, Young has averaged 26.1 points at home compared to 14.3 on the road.
Young has averaged 20.0 points in his last two games versus Phoenix – both of which were at US Airways Center.
Wall had 12 points and 12 assists against the Suns last month. The Wizards are 4-15 when Wall scores 18 points or fewer and 5-4 when he has 19 or more.
Updated January 21, 2011