With the Suns beating the Trail Blazers in Game Six and advancing to the second round, a lot of the talk last night was about this being the first time Grant Hill advanced a round in the playoffs in his career, a fact that never occurred to me until last night.
Grant Hill has had quite the career arc, beginning his career as a Co-Rookie of the Year with Jason Kidd, then facing extreme injury circumstances and finally reinventing himself on the Suns.
Hill has shown himself to be the Suns best defensive player and last night in Game Six Hill was putting on a borderline defensive clinic, making plays all over the court, as an on-ball defender and a help defender all the same.
We’re going to take a look at four of his plays (video clip at end of post) that really highlight the type of effect Hill had on the Blazers offense.
Hill primarily was covering Blazers’ pg Andre Miller. With Miller not known as a “shooter”, Hill was taking the opportunity to act as a roamer on defense when Miller didn’t have the ball, effectively leaving Miller wide open for long stretches. Hill played the role as roamer masterfully in this first play.
As you’ll see in the clip, it starts when Miller has the ball on the wing with Hill guarding him. Miller sends a post entry pass into LaMarcus Aldridge and Hill immediately turns and doubles Aldridge aggressively, forcing him to send the ball back out to Miller, in which Hill recovers on Miller immediately. The ball gets swung to the opposite wing to Brandon Roy. Hill now leaves his man again and goes over to double team Roy to get the ball out of his hands. As Roy looks to pass, Hill plays the passing lane nearly tipping the ball. It is here where Hill really impressed me. Take a look at the picture below.
As the bull was swung from Roy to Miller, Miller quickly was making the pass to a now perimeter based LaMarcus Aldridge. Take note at where Hill is on this pass (top of the key). With great effort, Hill covers all that ground to get to Aldridge and contest his shot at its highest point, making him miss and the Suns collect the rebound.
In play two, Hill again shows his skill as a help defender. As he gets caught in a switch on LaMarcus Aldridge, Hill’s teammate Jarron Collins is covering Andre Miller. Once Miller collects the ball, he immediately drives towards the baseline around Collins.
Here you see Hill marked with the green arrow. Behind him is Miller driving on Collins. Hill anticipates that Miller is going to turn the corner on Collins and is able to slide his feet and beat Miller to the spot, walling him off and making him throw a tough pass which is stolen, triggering a Suns fast-break dunk.
Play three shows Hill’s ability as an on-ball defender, it comes in the first quarter. Andre Miller has the ball on the wing tries a hard left-handed drive on Hill. Hill is able to move his feet and stay with Miller all the way through the drive.
Here you see Hill in the center of the lane (marked with arrow) cutting off Millers drive entirely, allowing him absolutely no vision of the basket. Miller eventually turns this over and the Suns get a steal.
The final play is the most highlight worthy play of the package and it comes in the final seconds of the first half. With the Blazers looking to take some momentum into halftime, Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless had a lane to the basket and he was looking to finish in a big way with a monster dunk.
There’s Bayless on the right side with a step on Suns Goran Dragic. There is Hill (marked by arrow) on the other side of the lane, again anticipating what is going to happen and again covering up for the Suns defense. As you can see, a hoop for the Blazers here cuts the Suns lead down to 10, and to finish with a monster dunk, would inject some much needed life into the Blazers crowd. Hill would have none of that. Let’s take a look at the clip to see what happened, I’m sure you already know the result.
Justin DeFeo is a contributor to SirCharlesInCharge.com.
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