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Patty, Patrick…Keep Playing Like This And We’ll Call You Whatever You Want

By Jeff Koch on February 8, 2014.

San Antonio 104, Charlotte 100

Ok then, Patty.

Patty Mills is really an ideal back-up PG. You want somebody who can come in and run the offense in a similar fashion as the starter, but also brings something different to the table (3-point shooting). A player who can change the whole complexion of a game by virtue of energy and shifting the pace. Somebody who makes up in scrap what he might lack in consistency (he is the back-up, after all). If he’s not playing well, you’re only dependent on 10-15 minutes from him. And if he’s playing well, you can ride him a bit. And when he really gets it going, he can have the occasional night of sheer excellence.

And then every so often, he’ll have a night like Patty Mills had tonight.

If you watched the game, you really need no explanation as to the kind of night Patty had. Without him, the Spurs lose this game, and rather quietly. With Parker struggling with injury and really gumming up the offense, Mills stepped up and filled a necessary void. And then some.

To wit: he officially shot the ball at the hoop 22 times, with it going in 18, for 32 points. In only 25 minutes. He completely owned the 4th quarter and sparked the Spurs to life and on to victory. Almost as impressive, he had 7 rebounds, second on the team (to Duncan); 4 assists and 2 steals. You really can’t say enough about how well he played tonight, how great of a season he is having in his role as back-up, and how important he’s been the last few weeks with Parker battling injuries. We owe two wins in large part to his play.

Parker doesn’t look right. He left the game in Washington with back spasms, didn’t play in Brooklyn, and never came back in after his 3rd quarter stint tonight. I’m sure Pop was riding Patty’s hot hand, but Tony would have come back in if he was feeling right. This leg of the road trip is tailor made to rest him, particularly given Patty’s play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is shut down until after the All-Star Break, which would give him a solid 10 days rest and only missing two games, against Detroit and Boston, both winnable. (The All-Star Game itself is less of a worry as he wouldn’t be playing that much, though the rest of NOT going would surely be preferred.)

The injuries are piling up and the Spurs are managing well all things considered. But Parker is one of the two players we can’t mess with in the long-term. The Spurs have no chance to go anywhere without a healthy Parker. To me he’s looked a bit off all season; perhaps 10 days would give him the juice he needed to regain his legs and spark a 2nd half surge.

Until then, Mr. Mills will fill in admirably.

A few more notes from tonight’s game:

–The starters were really flat in this game, and it’s no surprise the game didn’t turn until late in the 3rd with the line-up of Mills, Joseph, De Colo, Bonner, and Ayres. All made positive contributions, but  I thought Ayres in particular played quite well. He got free for some easy lay-ups that really helped, and made some tremendous passes off of clever cuts from the guards that he just wouldn’t have made even 2 months ago. He’ll have ups and downs, but he’s learning the team well, and his best play is a net positive off of the bench.

–I like the way Joseph is playing as an off-guard. I don’t think he’ll ever be a great point guard, but with his improved shooting, strong defense, and good rebounding for his size, he’s a valuable combo guard off the bench. He found himself on defense a few times severely mismatched in size and more than held his own. He does a great job in team rebounding, getting steals, and is becoming very comfortable driving to the rim and drawing contact. Again, I think Mills is the better option as the back-up to Parker, but Joseph has a place in the rotation.

Up next is Detroit on Monday. After that, Boston on Wednesday. Then the All-Star Break. Both of these games are winnable, and it would be a testament to the depth and resolve of this team to go into the break playing well and getting wins.

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