Patty Mills hadn’t played over 10 minutes in a game since January 16th but when he got the opportunity to step up in the absence of San Antonio’s injured star guard Tony Parker against the Phoenix Suns this week, he didn’t disappoint.
Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs 16 points apiece as the Spurs defeated the Suns 97-87, the victory extending the Spurs record to 45-13. Mills opportunity was also influenced by the fact back-up point guard Gary Neal who has been seeing significant playing time in front of Mills was also injured.
In the first half Mills was at his best, scoring 12 points on only 3-3 shooting with 5 free throws and a three pointer. Mills final stat line also included 2 rebounds in his 23 minutes on court which consolidated many fans opinions that Patty deserves to be the number one back-up guard on the Spurs roster.
Mills has rapidly become a fan-favourite in Texas due to his down to earth enthusiasm which regular includes standing up to cheer for his teammates, giving multitude high fives at timeouts and of course his love for the “art” of court side towel waves.
While the trade failed to eventuate Mills has continued to languish on a Spurs deep bench behind All-Star Tony Parker and Gary Neal.
Mills who currently averages half the court time team mate Gary Neal receives shares many commonalities with Neal. Both have a similar kind of game as both take a lot of shots in a combo guard role on offense, while their size can be exploited on defensive end.
In what could be considered the most important part of their games, shooting, this season Mills is far and away having a better year than Neal. Although Mills has not been able to demonstrate this over the same amount of time Neal has Mills shooting numbers are much more impressive than Neal’s by a significant margin in all of the scoring categories.
The most intriguing stat of which is that per 36 minutes, Patty is taking two more threes than Neal and is converting at a higher 3FG%. Mills is shooting .385 on the year on threes, which is about league average. Neal, however, is shooting .355 on threes which is well below the average mark.
When Neal’s shot hasn’t been falling his game generally does not change and he continues to take the same amount of shots in the games when he is “off” as he would have when he was “on”. Mills has shown that when he is having an off day shooting wise, he is a much more willing to try and set someone else up.
While shooting 2/8 against Minnesota in January Mills was still able to deliver 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 20 minutes. In comparison in a January where Neal played 19 minutes against Atlanta and shot a poor 2/9 he only contributed 1 rebound and 1 assist.
Mills may have not been handed the keys to a larger role at the Jazz but with current injuries effecting the Spurs Mills now has the opportunity to make a strong push for the back-up point guard in the absence of Parker and Neal.
The numbers and his Olympic performance in 2012 prove Mills has what it takes to be a bigger part of the Spurs rotation. With Parker and Neal out there will be no more crucial time this year for Patty to prove his worth to the Spurs staff, making one thing for sure… Patty, It’s Game Day Bala, It’s Game Day!