ORLANDO, Fla. - Grant Hill's game is back because his pain is gone.
Hill scored 32 points, his most in 4 1/2 years, and Steve Francis had 33 points and 11 assists, both season highs, to lead the Orlando Magic over the Utah Jazz 107-92 on Wednesday night.
Ankle injuries sidelined Hill after he signed with Orlando before the 2000-01 season, limiting him to 47 games in four years. Now, though, he appears to be back at full strength.
"I feel like I'm continuing to get better every day at practice and every game, and just really kind of showing my teammates what I can do," said Hill, who has declared this comeback his last. "And doing it, hopefully, day in and day out."
Hill put together a vintage performance against the Jazz - shaking and baking before a fadeaway, the stop-pop-and-drop jumper, driving for a dunk or a dish. Playing a season-high 41 minutes, Hill added five rebounds and five assists.
"He was just tremendous," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "He's always been a great player - knows how to play and doesn't overdo anything. To see him healthy, I'm happy for him."
Mostly firing jumpers over Andrei Kirilenko, usually a dependable defensive stopper, Hill shot 13-for-18 in his best offensive performance since scoring 36 points against Minnesota on April 10, 2000.
Hill remembers that game - he was still with the Detroit Pistons, and the stress fracture in his left ankle was badly flaring up.
But if he was in such pain, how was he able to play so well?
"Because I was good, man," replied a proud Hill.
Francis scored 23 points after halftime, 14 in the final eight minutes as the Magic ran away from the Jazz. He also had nine rebounds, falling just shy of his seventh triple-double.
"We let Francis get on top of the basket, and we let him go down the baseline three or four times," Sloan said. "Anybody can play this game defensively for the first 3 1/2 quarters. But when you get down the stretch, that's where you break down."
Utah also had problems when it had the ball late. Playing their second game in two nights, the Jazz had more turnovers (nine) than field goals (eight) in the fourth quarter en route to scoring 17 points. The Magic capitalized to end the game on a 31-12 tear.
Utah shot 40 percent after entering the game shooting an NBA-best 51 percent.
Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Carlos Boozer led Utah with 27 points and eight rebounds. Mehmet Okur scored 13 points, and Kirilenko added 12.
This was Orlando's fourth win over a Western Conference team, matching its total from last year. Also, the Magic are undefeated in four home dates; last year, they won 11 games at home.
Juneau Empire ©2014. All Rights Reserved.