HILL'S DEFENSE HELPS CLIPPERS SLOW ANTHONY IN 4TH
NEW YORK – The play that likely best summed up Grant Hill’s defensive performance against Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony occurred midway through the fourth quarter.
Anthony was on a roll. He had scored 18 points in a third quarter that included scarcely a miss and it appeared as though he was on his way to steamrolling the Clippers.
Hill helped slam on the brakes.
He popped out an Anthony 3-point attempt, contesting the shot with a hand a few inches from Anthony’s nose. He slid just close enough under Anthony to disrupt him and stayed far enough away to avoid a personal foul. Anthony short-armed the shot which clanged off the front of the rim.
Anthony managed four of his 42 points and was held to just two shots with Hill on him in the fourth, when the Clippers pulled away for a rather comfortable, 102-88, win at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.
“I thought Grant was the difference in the game really,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I mean, in a lot of ways. I thought his defense was very good. He boxed out a few times, got us some loose balls.”
Anthony blazed through the first three quarters tallying 38 points, but the Clippers adjusted schematically. They got the ball out of his hands, trapping him more and taking away his airspace.
“They were sending two guys at me…they were trapping the pick-and-roll,” Anthony said. “They made an adjustment especially in that fourth quarter.”
Hill was a significant factor in that adjustment. He played the entire fourth period after spending most of the first half riding a stationary bike in the Clippers’ tunnel. But after Caron Butler was forced out of the game due to a sore lower back and Matt Barnes started the third quarter, it opened up the door for the 40-year-old, seven-time All-Star as a reserve.
“That’s what he does for us,” Blake Griffin said. “Him and Matt are kind of our two utility guys. They come in and do whatever we ask of them. Today it was to slow down [Anthony] and he did an unbelievable job. To sit over there for three quarters, really, is huge.”
Chris Paul, who closed the game out alongside Hill, Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups, agreed and added that Hill has long been a bothersome defender.
“He’s just smart,” Paul said. “He never rests. He’s always bothering you or messing with you. He just does a great job. He understands how you can’t give a guy, especially the best scorer to me in the league, a steady diet of the same defense.
“Grant guarded me the past five or six years, whenever I’d play against Phoenix. Steve Nash never guarded me, it was always Grant. And Chauncey was talking about when he was in Denver, Grant would do a great job on him.”
Hill’s job on Anthony was something the Clippers projected when they signed him as a free agent in July, despite it being stalled by a bone bruise in his right knee that cost him the first 36 games of the season. Outside of his veteran leadership, Hill’s ability to be a potential defensive ace figured to be a major factor in matching up with wing scorers like Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Anthony.
Hill, who finished with two points and two rebounds in 15:21, didn’t get a chance to guard James in Miami on Friday, but made the most taking on Anthony two days later.
“I’ve battled against [Anthony],” Hill said. “He is a great player. I have so much respect for him. He’s one of my favorite players to watch. You just try to do things to make it difficult and you have to have selective memory because he hits shots. You have to be able to move onto the next play. He’s a great player and I enjoy the challenge.”