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Patty entrenches himself in Spurs history
On Tuesday afternoon Patty Mills not only reached a humbling personal record, but he had the ball entrenched in his hands for the game winning shot against Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Patty enters his 8th year under Gregg Popovich, and it is clear he has become a perennial leader within the Spurs camp. At Popovich's disposal on Tuesday was the likes of Demar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay - all of whom have been very productive on the offensive end.
As the play was drawn up in the huddle, Popovich went to this his longest-serving player. He ran an old trusted play. One that he has run on numerous occasions with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. But this time Patty found himself wide open and the chance to put a dagger into their Western Conference opponents heart.
Patty received the ball and then went on to brush off Aldridge's shoulder, you could see and feel the poise of the veteran. Gone was the version of Patty who was known as the excitable, perennial towel-waver on the bench. This was a composed Patty Mills - a version which has had to transform with the shuffling and changes to the Spurs roster this off-season. This Patty Mills delivered. He knocked down the jumper with 6.8 seconds remaining to place the Spurs up 143-142.
After the game, the cameras turned to Patty. Many NBA players would love the chance to be the man who hit the game winning shot, in overtime no less. Most kids with a love for basketball, have imagined their chance to make that game winning shot. Patty sat there and eloquently spoke about how happy he was that the Spurs never gave up. He spoke about when Lebron James tied the game up with the deep three-pointer, that it tested their character and they didn't fold. He said that his team didn’t falter when the Lakers were up by six with less than a minute left in overtime, after James again brought the crowd to their feet with a ridiculous shot. Patty showed himself as a real leader of this Spurs outfit.
For Patty, this season promised to be an interesting one. Last season he started more games in a season than ever before. But with the emergence of Dejonte Murray, Patty looked like he was going to play sidekick to the budding star. Unfortunately for Murray, an early season injury has seemingly taken away his 2018-19 season. Now further pressure looks to be placed on Patty's shoulders to fill some of those minutes.
Young former Michigan guard Bryn Forbes has been asked to handle the starting duties so far this season. Allowing Patty to come off the bench. A role which he has embraced throughout the years. Patty has still seen an increase in minutes early this season, especially with Murray and now Lonnie Walker on the sidelines.
But on Tuesday, Patty's 12 points off the bench moved him into second on the all time bench scoring list for the San Antonio Spurs. He displaced Malik Rose from that mantle, and now only sits behind the great Ginobili in Spurs history.
As the season continues to move through the motions, the Spurs are gelling early on. For all of their defensive struggles and their depleted back court, their offense is looking potent. Aldridge and Gay are doing the things they did last season, and DeRozan is looking more like a natural fit to Pop's style of play.
But Mills is the one who’s constantly thrown in to supply instant energy when the team needs it. He's the man who is thrown in when the team needs steadying or consistency. While the team continues to gel, it will be Mills’ steady hands that the Spurs need to ensure they keep propelling their season towards the playoffs.