AT&T Center – By the end of the third quarter on Wednesday in the San Antonio Spurs’ first preseason game of the 2013-14 season, it looked like they were on their way to an easy victory leading by 15 points at one point.
Then the fourth quarter happened where the Spurs were outscored 23-8 by Russian club CSKA Moscow as San Antonio had to force overtime, where they were saved by a game winning Patty Mills 3-pointer to seal the 95-93 victory.
Here are some observations from the opening preseason game.
Coach Pop, Dinner, and Twitter
Toward the end of his postgame interview, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was asked by a Russian reporter if it was true he had dinner with some members of the CSKA team and was speaking Russian to them.
“Yeah, we did a little bit of that at dinner last night; a little Russian, a little vodka, a little wine, a little food, about 15 or 18 people, a good time,” said Popovich. Then, the reporter asked him if he could say one quote about the game in Russian.
Popovich’s response, “No, I’m not going to say that. I’d get all types of emails and twitters or whatever you call them about pronunciation.”
Mills the spark off the bench
With 5:39 left in the third quarter, CSKA player Jeremy Pargo had just sunk a jumper to tie the game at 61. After Jeff Ayres made a 2-foot layup, Patty Mills was inserted into the game. Mills was an instant spark off the bench as he scored seven points in his five minutes off the bench to help the Spurs put together a 15-0 run to take the enormous lead going into the fourth quarter.
Though he shined with some of the regular rotation players, Mills struggled in the fourth quarter as he went 0-for-6 while being teamed with Nando De Colo, Sam Young, Ayres, and Aron Baynes in 12 minutes. In overtime though, Mills shined as he scored seven of the team’s nine overtime points.
“I would say erratic is the best adjective,” said Popovich when describing Mills’ defense. “He flung around in all directions and he creates little havoc.”
On the final 3-pointer he made to win the game in overtime, Mills said the play was drawn up for him.
“It was drawn up and well executed. That’s what Pop talks about all the time. Executing what’s drawn up. Executing the game plan and that was a good example.”
With former guard Gary Neal departing to Milwaukee in the offseason, one could wonder if Mills could be a Neal-type scoring spark off the bench with his ability to score quickly in bunches.
Sam Young’s disappointing audition
The current thought among Spurs fans is that the final roster spot could potentially go to either Young or Corey Maggette by the time all the preseason games are concluded. Young got his shot on Wednesday and it was a disappointing one for him as he played 18 minutes, never scored by going 0-of-6 from the floor, had two turnovers in the fourth quarter, and grabbed four rebounds. On one of his late game turnovers, Young directly threw the ball to a CSKA player in the fourth quarter. Young was also left open several times from the 3-point line and failed to connect on any of his attempts.
It’ll be interesting to see if Young gets minutes on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns or if it’ll be Maggette’s turn for his audition.