Patty Mills and the San Antonio Spurs survived the rollercoaster ride.
The Spurs are headed back to the playoffs for an NBA record 22nd consecutive season, and Mills will see his personal streak extend into double-digits when the postseason begin this weekend.
Having made the postseason in all 10 of his NBA seasons, Mills now holds the third longest active playoff streak in the entire NBA. Only Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick have made the NBA playoffs in more consecutive seasons than the 183cm point guard.
The Australian has experienced every possible permutation of postseason success and failure during his decade-long streak. From NBA championships to first-round exits, Mills has seen it all. This diverse array of postseason experiences means that Mills is acutely aware of the challenge that awaits his Spurs.
“This time of year is different every year with knowing where you sit in the standings and how many games you have played,” Mills told The Pick and Roll. “There are a few factors that weigh into it, but the overall mindset of the playoffs is understanding that it’s a totally different season.
“In a way, it’s when you need to be the freshest and when you need to have the most energy and feel the best because the season is one thing, but game one of the playoffs is a totally different thing. I have learned how to go throughout a long NBA season and how to really get ready and prepared for the playoffs.
“We obviously know it’s going to be a hard road regardless of who we play against in the playoffs. We have an opportunity here with a new group and a young group, to try and get something done.”
When The Pick and Roll last spoke with Mills in early March, San Antonio was battling through their toughest stretch of the season. The Spurs had just completed the Rodeo Road Tripwith a 1-7 record and their playoff mortality was under serious threat. A return to the friendly confines of the AT&T Center in San Antonio helped turn things around, as the Spurs won nine straight games and 14 of 19 overall since their annual road trip.
“Were obviously going through a year where we are trying to teach new guys and young guys the system and what to experience. Generally speaking, the whole year has been a learning curve for a lot of guys. Even for us [players] and the coaches in being able to handle different plays and different situations.
“Last time we spoke, we were going through a little phase there but we got to go home and set in and recharge the batteries. Refocus on what we are trying to do and able to lock back in to the bigger picture of making the playoffs.”
Mills is also in line to create new Australian records this postseason. He is just four game appearances and seven points away from passing Luc Longley as the all time leader for NBA playoff games played and points scored by an Australian Boomer. Longley, who made his last postseason appearance in 2000 as a member of the Phoenix Suns, retired with 87 games and 577 points scored in NBA playoffs.
With San Antonio assured of at least four playoff games, Mills is almost certain to surpass Longley this year. He could make Australian history against a familiar face, too, with the Spurs possibly facing off against Andrew Bogut and the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
If San Antonio falls to Dallas in their final regular season game on Thursday morning (AEDT) and the LA Clippers win their final game against Utah, then Mills and Bogut would oppose each other in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
While a postseason showdown would provide a fitting reunion for two Boomers teammates, Mills is just happy to see his old mate back in the NBA.
“I had all the happiness in the world for him to get back on his old team, with old teammates, and be in a position to win a championship,” Mills said of Bogut.
“I was pumped to see him and pumped to play against him and if the playoffs started today we would play against him so it’s going to be exciting. Him being back on the Warriors has definitely made them a better team.”
The NBA playoffs begin Sunday morning (AEDT).