Magic 112 - 113 Suns
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Hill's late layup lifts Suns as they squeak past Magic

Dec 13, 2008 - 6:34 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Grant Hill had just entered the game a few seconds earlier after sitting on the bench for nearly the last 6 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter. And just like that, he scored the game-winner.

Hill cut down the baseline, took a perfect pass from Amare Stoudemire and easily dropped in the game-winning layup with 2.7 seconds left Friday night, lifting the Phoenix Suns to a 113-112 victory over the shorthanded Orlando Magic.

"I figured if I cut off I might be open," Hill said. "I was more surprised that Amare threw it. The play was for me to cut hard baseline. I was wide open and I was wondering two things - Was he going to pass it? And should I dunk? But those days are long gone."

The bucket salvaged a frenetic night for the Suns, who surrendered a sizable second-half lead to fall behind in the final minute. However, Hill's lay-in put them on top for good. Orlando had one last shot to steal another road victory, but Rashard Lewis had little time to get off a good shot and his desperation heave from the top of the key was off-balance and bounced innocently off the rim.

"Our guys did a great job of gutting it out," Suns coach Terry Porter said. "(The Magic) fought back. We just stepped up, made some big shots and made some stops when we needed to. Good teams find ways to win those games. It would have been a heartbreaker to lose that game the way we gutted it out."

However, the Magic were without their centerpiece, as All-Star Dwight Howard left the game with 8:36 left in the third quarter with a sore left knee. The Suns had already taken control by that point, staging a 13-3 run to start the second half to pull ahead, 73-64. Amare Stoudemire scored seven points in the spurt, knocking down three jumpers and converting one into a three-point play.

"We did great defensively," Stoudemire said. "We did a great job on the boards and help out. We scored down the stretch and that shows some mark of improvement."

Stoudemire finished with 21 points and 14 boards as the Suns won their third game in four tries. It was a nice start - particularly on the offensive end - to the Jason Richardson era. The explosive guard was acquired on Wednesday in a five-player deal that sent Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to the Charlotte Bobcats and made his Phoenix debut on Friday.

He provided a big spark off the bench, scoring 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

"I was just playing basketball out there, but when we needed a play I needed to know where I had to be," Richardson said. "It was easy to remember because we went through some of the basic principles earlier in the day, so I knew some of the plays."

Howard was his typical self before departing, taking advantage of a soft Phoenix interior that was still without center Shaquille O'Neal. The 36-year-old veteran was still away from the team, tending to family matters following the death of his great-grandmother.

Facing off against a combination of Stoudemire and rookie Robin Lopez, Howard had 19 points and seven boards in 23 minutes. The injury is not considered serious.

"I made a move on Lopez and I guess I came down the wrong way or something," Howard said. "I don't even remember what happened, but I was trying to run back on defense and my knee started hurting. I am not going to play with any pains like this. So I came back here and iced it up and tried to move on it but nah, I would rather wait. ... I want to make sure it is 100 percent before I step on the floor."

The Magic had four other players reach double figures, led by Lewis' 18.

The game seemed to be both won and lost at the 3-point line.

The teams combined for 49 attempts from 3-point range - and whichever club was hottest from the arc at any given time was able to take control. The Magic pulled ahead in the second quarter, as Lewis buried back-to-back 3-pointers, Keith Bogans added another and Courtney Lee connected for his first of two threes - and that was just in the first four minutes of the period.

Orlando hit seven of its 13 3-pointers in the first half, with Howard doing the rest of the damage inside. In the waning minutes of the first half, the Suns charged back, with Matt Barnes and Steve Nash each connecting from the arc as Phoenix pulled to within one by the break.

After the Magic fell behind by double digits, it was their perimeter shooting that once again brought them back. They hit four 3-pointers in the opening 2 1/2 minutes of the final frame to cut their deficit to one. The first came courtesy of Jameer Nelson, who carried his club throughout the fourth.

The fifth-year point guard scored 12 of his 16 points in the quarter, including a 10-footer that cut Phoenix's lead to 111-110 with 48 seconds on the clock. Thirty-nine seconds later, Hedo Turkoglu put Orlando on top, rolling around a screen and burying a 20-footer from the elbow.

But Hill's layup on the following possession undid Nelson and Turkoglu's damage as Orlando's four-game winning streak came to an end.

"It wasn't big enough," Turkoglu said of his go-ahead shot. "We couldn't execute on the other end and they made a good play. We shouldn't have let it come down to that. We had a situation we could control. ... God is always with me in those situations, making those shots, but the other end we couldn't stop."