There aren't many superlatives left for Steve Nash and Grant Hill after their performances in Tuesday night's triple overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The aging, but timeless Suns' stars gave what could very well turn out to be their curtain call on the big stage. With Phoenix a long shot to make the playoffs, this instant classic on national television could be their final chance to shine, and shine they both did.
Another season of Nash and Hill in Phoenix is very much in doubt. With an extended lockout possibly stealing even more time from the end of his career, the Suns would be foolish to not see what young assets they could get for Nash. Hill's contract is set to expire this summer, and while he doesn't sound like he's ready to hang up his sneakers, would he come back to the Suns without Steve?
If all that comes to pass, it will be this game that we remember as the final act of two great players. It was a game that epitomized what has made their time in Suns' uniforms so special.
Nash, with 20 assists on the night, was completely brilliant with the ball. He spoon-fed Marcin Gortat for 24 points and tore through one of the league's top ten defenses like a hot knife through tofu. His mark, Derek Fisher, finished with two points on 0-7 shooting.
We've watched Nash struggle through an injury over the past weeks that took away an ability to score we used to take for granted. A career-low in three-point shooting in February is evidence of his body failing him despite how hard he works just to stay on the court.
But in this game, with his team down 21 points late in the third quarter on the road against the defending NBA Champions, Steve Nash put his team on his back and did what we've not seen him do in a long, long time. He started taking and making threes.
Three quick long balls cut the lead to 14 and more importantly showed his mates that he was not ready to quit. There is no question in my mind that those shots inspired his team to fight on and eventually tie the game in regulation and again twice more in overtime.
Classic Steve Nash.
Grant Hill did what he's been doing all season, he played lockdown defense on the other team's best player. Alvin Gentry's open campaign to get Hill the recognition he deserves took a big step forward as Hill's efforts were finally acknowledged by the national media thanks to the stage he was on.
Kobe Bryant finished the game with 42 points and shot 15-31, but we all saw what Grant did. We saw him defend Kobe as well as anyone can. We saw Kobe go 1-8 in the three overtime periods before he put his mind to fouling Grant out of the game and drew two questionable calls on contact that he initiated.
Kobe knew what he had to do to win, and while he seemed reluctant to flop, when it came time he realized he couldn't beat Hill so he drew the fouls and removed his defender from the game.
Behind Hill's defensive leadership, it was the Suns who held the Lakers to 44.2 percent shooting on the night while Phoenix hit 48.1 percent of their shots against the "superior" Laker defense. And by the way, Grant scored 11 points of his own, shot 50 percent from the field, hit a clutch three point shot, and grabbed ten rebounds.
Classic Grant Hill.
I hope we are treated to more games like this from Nash and Hill in the playoffs. I hope these two guys are back in Suns' uniforms next season doing what only they can do. But if not, and this triple overtime game on a Tuesday night with the entire NBA community watching has to be their encore performance, the show couldn't have ended in a better way...except for the final score.