Mills ready to fire away for Spurs

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Patty Mills hangs 26 points and six assists on the Mavs on April 10

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Meet Patty Mills, the latest once-anonymous, low-minute man to thrive as a meaningful member of the San Antonio Spurs.

In a game last week at Dallas, a bad back sidelined All-Star point guard Tony Parker. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has typically started Cory Joseph in these instances to keep Mills firing off the bench. On this night, with the Mavericks desperate for a win as they chased a playoff spot, Popovich surprised the 6-foot Mills by starting him at point guard for just the second time this season.

Mills responded by destroying Dallas’ backcourt with six 3-pointers and a game-high 26 points, six assists, a couple steals and not a single turnover in 36 minutes. If you squinted, it almost looked like the jitterbug wearing No. 8 was really Parker’s No. 9. The Spurs won the game, going on to sweep the regular-season series 4-0 against a Mavs team they might see again this weekend when the playoffs begin.

The first-round matchup will be determined Wednesday when Dallas plays at Memphis (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). The loser will assume the eighth seed and head for San Antonio. The Grizzlies are also 0-4 against the Spurs.

After the big victory over Dallas, Mills was asked if he finds himself looking ahead to the playoffs considering he’s headed for his first postseason as an integral part of a rotation.

“No, no, and obviously it’s not easy to do,” Mills said in a softly spoken Australian accent. “You really need to focus on the job at hand and we’ve got games like tonight we’ve still got to play which are going to develop us and give us a good opportunity to get better against playoff teams.”

He quickly added: “I think whether we won or lost tonight’s game, I think it was a matter of how well we played that we came out of this game, you know, better.”

It reminded of the line Popovich delivered earlier this month to his club during TNT’s timeout peek into the Spurs’ huddle at Oklahoma City:

“I could care less whether we win or lose this game. I’d rather win but I want to win the right way.”

Mills, told he sounded much like Pop, said with a grin: “I’ve been around him for a while now, so…”

Hailing from Canberra, Australia, Mills, 25, played two seasons at Saint Mary’s in Northern California and was the 55th pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2009. During the 2011 lockout he returned to Australia and went to China briefly. San Antonio signed him in March 2012 and re-signed him the ensuing summer. In his first full season with the Spurs, Mills averaged 11.3 mpg and 5.1 ppg in 58 games.

When the Spurs didn’t re-sign long-distance shooting guard Gary Neal  last summer, the 180-pound, quick-footed Mills ascended into the rotation.

“He can score,” Popovich said. “He’s not afraid to shoot it, that’s for sure. That’s how he plays, he’s always aggressive, that’s what he does. He’s not going to get a whole lot of rebounds or stop a whole lot of people, but he’s going to shoot it, that’s what his skill is.”

Logging a career-high 18.3 mpg in 80 games this season, Mills, making $1.1 million in his final season under contract, is averaging 10.2 ppg and converting 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (134-for-315) — both better marks than Neal produced last season.

Mills’ effective field-goal percentage (eFG%, adjusted for 3-pointers being more valuable than 2-pointers) is 59.4 percent, the highest in the league among reserve guards who average at least 15.0 mpg.

However, he’s entering an all new ballgame now. His postseason experience consists of scarce minutes, a total of 79 in his career. Is he prepared to produce as he has during the regular season in his first playoff pressure-cooker?

“I don’t doubt him,” Manu Ginobili said. “He’s very young and doesn’t have that much experience, but he’s played big games for Australia, and in the Olympics. The guy can score. The guy is a scorer and I don’t see a scenario where pressure can really bother him. We trust him and rely on him, too.”

Mills is fully indoctrinated in the San Antonio way. Popovich last week provided his seal of approval.

“He’s ready,” Popovich said. “He’s not a 21-year-old rookie. He’s played all over the world in all kinds of situations. He’ll be fine. I’m not worried about him.”

17 Comments

  1. camsterdam says:

    Hi mates, how is everything, and what you want
    to say on the topic of this paragraph, in my view its truly amazing designed
    for me.

  2. raps says:

    Mills is good player, runs the Pg good but he is better than Manu G

  3. cp10 says:

    PM Ozzy

  4. JimboJJM says:

    Patty is coming into his own now. He certainly is a solid scorer, but his scrambling style of defense has a lot of holes and guards like Westbrook and Chris Paul will eat him up. Tony Parker has the same problem. Defenively the point guard spot is a Spurs weakness that teams like Houston and OKC have and will continue to take advantage of. My Spurs will probably take care of Memphis or Dallas in the opening round, but then they have to face Houston in the second round and probably OKC if they advance to the western finals. That is a really tough challenge, especially since SA hasn’t been able to garner a win against either of those two teams so far this season. Pop will have to pull more than one rabbit out of the hat he never wears to have San Antonio reach the finals this year.

  5. wooderson says:

    finally some love for the Aussies and Patty! he led the WORLD in scoring in the Olympics im pretty sure he was never anonymous, maybe to American sports media who don’t acknowledge anyone unless they are ESPNs love child. patty will tear it up in the playoffs he is made for this. its about time another Aussie wins a ring

  6. okc2014 says:

    Patty Mills and Kwai Leonard give the Spurs a lightening bolt of energy. I do admire these guys and what they bring to their team. But OKC is going to flatten them like pancakes in the Western Conference finals.

  7. Yes Patty Mills lit it up at the olympics and just needed a solid opportunity in nba. Hes always been a really good shooter especially when hes open. Its good to see hes worked hard on his game and stepped it up in Nba and is proving to be a valuable player. Possibly a candidate for most improved, but more likely its because hes getting a chance to show what hes got on a good team with a system that works well for him. Mills vs Adams, Aus vs NZ conference final yeehaaaa

  8. Timmy G says:

    Stoked for Patty, he is killing it this year after finally getting a go. It must of been so frustrating for him playing 4th and even 5th fiddle to Parker, Neal, Joseph, De Colo. Now he is validated in sticking with the Spurs and having a breakout year. Bloody proud of ya mate! I’m not a Spurs fan either just an Aussie. I’m a die hard Pacer fan and i remember watching the draft on the computer praying for Indy to take him in the 2nd round i think we had pick 53 and we were chasing a PG, and we choose AJ PRICE, well that never worked out and now look where Mills is, getting articles written about him leading into playoffs on Hangtime hahaha

  9. lmjr2000 says:

    Mills is great! He is certainly a backup guard that would be pushing for a starting position if he were on another team. Great to have a confident scoring minded player for a second team …

  10. Jeff says:

    Was a pleasure to see Patty get some minutes this year and it is very obvious that the team trust him. I’m not a Spurs fan (although they are my favourite west team), but I think they are headed to the conference finals for sure and if they make it to the NBA championship decider, they will not be concerned by many teams in the East (especially Heat and Pacers), Bulls and Nets are the only serious playoff concerns as they match up fairly well against the Spurs. None the less if Mills and Bellinelli play like they have all year, I doubt anyone can beat them.

  11. BIGMatta23 says:

    Patty makes me proud to be Aussie.

  12. Spurs Fan says:

    Go Spurs go! Patty Mills steppin his game up! Spurs / Heat rematch for the finals! We just gotta find a way to get past OKC…

  13. guseryre says:

    Patty Mills and Bellinelli have been two most useful additions. The Spurs are are a better team this year than last year. For the NBA title no team can threathen them but the OKC maybe. hot in http://kkship4biz.com

  14. krespino says:

    Patty Mills and Bellinelli have been two most useful additions. The Spurs are are a better team this year than last year. For the NBA title no team can threathen them but the OKC maybe.

  15. SpursSpursSpurs says:

    Spurs in 4

  16. The Spurs can possibly lose to Memphis in the 1st round. But odds are they will beat the Grizzlies and will face OKC in the Western Conference Finals. Check out this impactful video Adam Silver: The Poor Man’s David Stern aka The Rigging Master https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF6bnk9aROw

    • jake s. says:

      I agree with you, but there will always be teams like San Antonio and OKC to counteract the corruption of the NBA.