7:00 PM ET, December 2, 2007
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
NEW YORK (AP) -- Happy and healthy, Grant Hill delivered a reminder that he can still be an elite NBA player.
Hill scored a season-high 28 points, nine during a fourth-quarter flurry that broke open a close game, and the Phoenix Suns pulled away to beat the Knicks 115-104 on Sunday night.
Frequently injured in recent years, Hill said he felt rejuvenated by the move to Phoenix, where he signed as a free agent during the offseason.
"Sometimes you need new scenery," he said. "Coming here is a great environment, great coaching staff, great guys, and just the chance to break away from all the ankle talk and stuff from the past, that's all behind me and I feel good. Now it's about trying to go out and help this team win."
It was a tense atmosphere afterward in the Knicks' locker room, where almost all the players were gone by the time the media was allowed in. Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said during his postgame press conference that his team got impatient in the fourth quarter, but when asked why that happened, he paused for 10 seconds before saying, "I'll keep that thought to myself."
"We stick together," said Quentin Richardson, one of the only players who was still around. "We're going to keep working hard. We'll persevere."
Stephon Marbury was escorted out of the arena by security shortly after the loss. Don Marbury died sometime during the game, but team spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz said no other information was immediately available, other than Don Marbury wasn't at Madison Square Garden when he died.
Amare Stoudemire added 28 points and 12 rebounds to help the Suns win for the 10th time in 12 games. Phoenix, opening a five-game road trip, also got 15 points from Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa, and nine points and 15 assists from Steve Nash.
Hill shot 13-of-17 in his highest-scoring game in nearly two years. He went to the bench for good midway through the fourth quarter, possibly all that prevented him from his first 30-point game since he scored 34 for Orlando against Miami on Feb. 27, 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"He's a seven-time All-Star," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's healthy and playing great. Obviously he had a good game. Almost a triple-double. He's capable and has done it all his career whenever he's been healthy, and he's healthy. I don't think it's unusual that he did it."
Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury scored 21 points apiece for the Knicks, who played the speedy Suns even for three quarters, keeping the "Fire Isiah!" chants on hold until there were under 4 minutes left. Zach Randolph added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite a terrific start, Phoenix led by only one after three quarters. Hill converted a three-point play to open the fourth, then knocked down three consecutive jumpers to extend the lead to 94-84 less than 1 1/2 minutes into the period.
Barbosa added another bucket, and the Knicks didn't score in the fourth until Fred Jones made a free throw with 8:37 remaining. Phoenix outscored New York 30-20 in the final 12 minutes.
A message on the Suns' locker room board before the game read: "Let's take the crowd out of the game early. A good start will turn their crowd against them."
Phoenix certainly got the good start -- though sometimes lately the fans are on the Knicks before the game is even under way.
The Suns put on an offensive clinic in the opening minutes, making 12 of their first 17 shots and quickly building a 14-point lead. Randolph kept the game from getting away from the Knicks with 11 points in the opening quarter, which ended with Phoenix ahead 37-29.
New York tied it at 50 on Marbury's 3-pointer with 3:15 remaining in the half, but Hill hit two jumpers in the final minute to give the Suns a 61-57 lead at the break.
Hill added eight rebounds and seven assists in his highest-scoring game since also finishing with 28 for Orlando against Dallas on Dec. 16, 2005.
The Suns shot 58 percent from the field.
The Knicks twice led by a point in a tight third quarter, which ended with Phoenix ahead 85-84.
The Suns have won two in a row at Madison Square Garden for the first time since Jan. 2, 1990, and March 5, 1991. ... The Knicks played without reserve point guard Mardy Collins, who sprained his left ankle during pregame Friday night against Milwaukee. Collins started the game in Phoenix last month after Marbury went home instead of coming off the bench. ... Thomas said before the game that he read nothing into the absence of MSG chairman James Dolan at recent home games. "I think you guys pay more attention to that than I do," he said, adding he knew why Dolan hadn't been here but refused to elaborate.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||49-84 (.583)||40-86 (.465)|
|3PM-3PA||7-22 (.318)||6-21 (.286)|
|FTM-FTA||10-14 (.714)||18-29 (.621)|
|Fast Break Points||17||6|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||20 (0/0)||19 (0/0)|