Nearly two years ago on April 26, 2012, Patty Mills led the San Antonio Spurs to a 107-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors in a meaningless season finale, in which Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard did not play. That night, Mills finished the night with a career high 34 points, 12 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Fast-forward to Saturday evening in Charlotte, and there was Mills once again leading the Spurs, only this time, this wasn’t a meaningless game in which the Spurs were just choosing to rest players to prepare for the playoffs. This was a game to avoid back-to-back losses and on this night, Duncan and Parker were playing, but even they needed another player to have an impactful night, and Mills was the one to deliver with a season-high 32 points and seven rebounds.
Down by one-point going into the fourth quarter Saturday, Mills began the fourth by shooting a corner 3-pointer and drawing a foul, as he went on to make three free throws to give the Spurs the lead 72-70. The Bobcats would tie the Spurs two more times but Mills, Nando De Colo, and Jeff Ayres would match them and then extend the lead as Mills nailed a 3-pointer with nearly two minutes remaining to give the Spurs a 9-point lead. The Bobcats would get some stops and cut the Spurs’ lead down to four points, but Mills would continue to lead San Antonio by making critical jumpers and making his clutch free throws when the Bobcats were trying desperately to catch San Antonio. When the final buzzer rang, the Spurs stood with a 104-100 victory.
In that fourth quarter, Mills scored 18 of the Spurs’ 35 points on 5-of-5 shooting, he made 8-of-9 free throws, grabbed six rebounds, and stole the ball twice in 12 minutes. With Tony Parker trying to play through a tight back he already missed a game from, it was clear by his last minutes in the third quarter, he wasn’t 100% as he finished the night shooting 3-of-13 from the field. Mills took it upon himself to be the “closer” on this evening for the Spurs as ended the game with a season-high 32 points on 10-of-13 shooting, he made 4-of-5 three pointers before the half, grabbed seven rebounds, had four assists, and two steals overall in 25 minutes of play.
Take a look at Mills’ shot chart on the night. On this night, one could say he was on fire.
De Colo and Ayres excel in the fourth
With Tiago Splitter and Marco Belinelli sidelined for the game with injuries, along with Ginobili and Leonard, and even Parker in the fourth quarter, the Spurs needed a group of players to help Duncan who finished the game with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks. De Colo and Ayres did just that, as they helped Mills stretch the Spurs’ lead and battle with the Bobcats for a majority of the fourth quarter while Duncan was resting on the bench. Both De Colo and Ayres scored six points in the fourth quarter each, and their execution was in sync during that time. De Colo was cutting without the ball and making key passes to Mills, Ayres, and Cory Joseph to continue to keep the Bobcats defense on their heels. Ayres was catching his received passes and make the most of his opportunities by pump faking, getting his defenders in the air, and then scoring the layups. De Colo finished with 15 points and two assists, while Ayres finished with eight points, four assists, and three rebounds.
Diaw gets booed, still produces
It’s no secret Boris Diaw’s time in Charlotte didn’t end on the brightest note, and on Saturday, each time he touched the ball or made an important play you could hear the Bobcats fans booing him. It didn’t faze Diaw too much as he finished with 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, and one block while also helping Duncan defend Al Jefferson (26 points, 9 rebounds) without Splitter.
Mills as sixth man until Ginobili returns
Since Manu Ginobili went down with his hamstring injury on January 28, the Spurs knew they would need someone to continue to bring a scoring edge off of the bench. Initially, the thought was Belinelli would have that responsibility, but lately he’s been in a shooting slump and now he’s dealing with an injury (back spasms). Mills however, has taken the sixth man role as his responsibility based on his performance, as he’s averaging 17.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1 steal per game, while shooting 50.7% from the floor, and 42.9% from 3-point range. Mills has also scored 10 or more points in 5 of his last 6 games.
Where San Antonio Stands
· Regular Season: 37-14
· Road Record: 19-6
· Vs. Opponents with -.500 records: 23-3
· Vs. the Eastern Conference: 15-5
· Without Manu Ginobili: 4-2
· Without Kawhi Leonard: 5-4
· Rodeo Road Trip: 3-1
(All stats used via NBA.com/Stats)