NEW YORK – Grant Hill sat in front of his locker Sunday afternoon with ice packs around both knees and his feet submerged in a bucket of ice.
It has become a normal postgame image for the 40-year-old Hill this season but on Sunday his performance was anything but normal.
After sitting on the bench for the first half and not playing at all in Friday’s loss to the Miami Heat, Grant Hill played the final 15 minutes and 21 seconds against the New York Knicks and effectively shut down Carmelo Anthony who had scored 38 points through three quarters on 13 of 24 shooting. After Hill entered the game and started guarding Anthony, the Knicks star had only 4 points on 1 of 2 shooting with two turnovers.
Chris Paul couldn’t stop singing the praises of Hill after the game, saying, “I think the game ball goes to Grant Hill.” Vinny Del Negro added, "I thought Grant was the difference in the game."
“Grant guarded me for the five or six years whenever I played against Phoenix,” Paul said. “Steve Nash never guarded me. Chauncey (Billups) was talking about when he was in Denver, Grant used to do a great job on him too. He’s just smart. He never rests. He’s always bothering you and messing with you. He does a great job. He understands you can’t give a guy, especially the best scorer in the league, a steady diet of the same defense.”
Anthony said that the Clippers’ defensive adjustments and having Hill guarding him did at the end of the game did affect his performance. Hill simply smiled when he was asked his secret to defending Anthony. He wouldn’t tip his hand but admitted there are certain tricks of the trade you gain when you’ve been playing in the league for 19 years.
“I’ve battled against him. He’s a great player,” Hill said. “I have as 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 when he hits a shot, you’ve just got to be able to move on to the next play. He’s a great player and I enjoy the challenge.”
This was the reason Hill was signed in the off-season by the Clippers. They viewed him as a veteran defender who could make life hard on the likes of Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. No one is going to shut those players down but if you can frustrate them and make it hard for them, you’ve done your job and on Sunday Hill certainly did his job.
"He came in and provided a great presence on there on Melo," Jamal Crawford said. "I don't think we win that game without him."
Hill was sidelined for the first 36 games of the season with a bone bruise in his right knee and is just now getting comfortable again on the court. If the Clippers can add a healthy Hill to the mix as a defender that can at least get under the skin of the oppositin's top scorer, their already deep bench suddenly will add another demention they've been sorely missing.
“That’s what he does for us,” Blake Griffin said. “He and Matt (Barnes) are our two utility guys and do whatever we ask of them. (On Sunday) it was to slow down Melo and he did an unbelievable job. To sit over there for three quarters and do that is huge.”
Paul was still marveling at the way Hill is able to play at 40 years old after the game, shaking his head at the prospect of him doing the same later in his career.
“I tell him all the time, I will not be 40 years old and playing in this league” Paul said. “I wish I could but I can’t. It’s tremendous for Grant. He has great heart and determination and he’s always staying ready.”