Feb. 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) dribbles the ball up the court against the Phoenix Suns in the second half at US Airways Center. The Spurs defeated the Suns 97-87. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Patty Mills Is Freed As Spurs Outlast Suns, 97-87

After Friday’s tough loss to the Warriors in Golden State, the Spurs were afforded the luxury of having to play the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night. The Spurs took advantage of that luxury as they got back to their winning ways against the Suns, 97-87.

The scoring load was very spread around for the Spurs, as the leading scorer on the year, Tony Parker, was out for the night with a sore right triceps. The high mark for the game was 16, reached by Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills.

Leonard finished with 16 on 5-13 shooting, also getting 9 rebounds and 3 steals on the night. Mills had 16 on 5-11 shooting in 23 minutes, getting more playing time due to Gary Neal’s absence from injury.

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili had a bit of an off night. Duncan had only 10 points on 12 shots, also getting 9 boards and 3 assists. Ginobili was not at his best shooting wise, going only 1-5 from the floor, but he was ale to stay fairly efficient by getting to the line and converting 10-15 times, finishing with 12 points total. Ginobili also had 6 assists, but turned the ball over 4 times as well.

For Phoenix, Marcin Gortat was the high point man, getting 21 on 10-15 shooting, while also getting 12 boards and 3 blocks. Luis Scola was also good scoring wise, getting 15 on 3-7 shooting, as well as going 9-10 from the charity stripe. Goran Dragic, with whom a lot of the scoring responsibility lies for Phoenix, did not play extremely well. He had 10 points on 3-14 shooting. While Dragic had 11 assists on the night, he did also turn it over 5 times.

The game was even early on, but shifted to the Spurs favor after a 25-4 run in the second quarter, which was led by Tiago Splitter with 7 during the run. By halftime, the score was 54-40 in San Antonio’s favor.

In the second half, Phoenix kept trying to make a run, but never got the scoring deficit into single digits as they failed to piece one together.

This game marked the final one on the Spurs Rodeo Road Trip, giving them a final tally of 7-2 on the trip. The next game for San Antonio is on Wednesday, as they take on the Suns again at home in the AT&T Center.

Game Notes

  • Just one quick note for this game, I wanted to talk about how Patty Mills played. The Australian looked good tonight, finishing with 16 points on 11 shots in Gary Neal’s “unabashed gunner” type of role. 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 has become a fan-favorite due to his friendly disposition on the bench, always standing up to cheer for his teammates, or give a  multitude of high fives at a timeout, and especially for his impeccable towel waves. However, I think it’s time we look at how he compares to another Spur getting more minutes, Gary Neal. They both have the same kind of game, taking a lot of shots in the combo guard role on offense, and trying to hide themselves on defense. And while Neal has been the better player for their careers, in my opinion Mills is the better player this year. In what is the most important part of their games, shooting, Mills is far and away having a better year than Neal. There is a significantly smaller sample size for Mills, but enough of one to say that he’s the better shooter. He is beating Neal 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, but 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. In a bigger sample size, I don’t think Mills’ percentages stay as high as they are, but I think playing him over Neal is worth a shot. Neal has been abysmal this year, and has not even tried to change his game one bit. Even though he’s struggling to shoot well, he takes the same amount of shots as in previous years. 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. With all this said, I would like to start up Air Alamo’s “Free Patty Mills” movement. He deserves to get his shot at major playing time, and I will remain unsatisfied until that happens (Well, as unsatisfied as I can be cheering for the best team in the league, record-wise).

(All stats used in this piece are from NBA.com and basketball-reference.com)

Tags: Gary Neal Patty Mills Phoenix Suns

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