"Certainly was a challenge,” Hill said. "He makes you work.”
Hill has no complaints. "It beats talking about it on TV,” he said, glancing at a screen, "like C-Webb (Chris Webber) over there.”
Hill kept encouraging the Suns to play stiff defense, even after they trailed 98-88, and indeed they did. The Thunder missed its final nine shots. Hill kept encouraging the Suns to attack on offense; they did that, too, scoring on seven of their final eight possessions.
"Just try to keep everybody loose, keep everybody confident,” Hill said of his job. "You’ve been around. You know a lot can happen. We’re an explosive team. We can score baskets fast. We kept our composure.”
The Thunder didn’t exactly panic, but they made enough small mistakes down the stretch to let Phoenix back in the game and eventually win it.
"I don’t know if anybody appreciates what Grant Hill is,” said Suns coach Alvin Gentry. "The whole package. He brought the guys together.”
And even someone as old as Hill still can get a charge out of his audience. Russell, the Celtics’ Hall of Fame icon, sat with Thunder chairman Clay Bennett; they became friends during Bennett’s Supersonic days in Seattle.
The Suns were thrilled at Russell’s presence. He chatted them up — surprise, he talked defense — and "everybody knows who Bill Russell is,” Gentry said.
Old Man Hill among them.
"It’s an amazing thing to see him at our game,” Hill said. "He still has an appreciation and respect for the young players.
"He should go to more games. We’ve got an open invitation for him in Phoenix.”
The same goes for Grant Hill in Oklahoma City, even if it costs the Thunder a victory.
405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
Box score from Tuesday's game