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Patty Mills thrills in Spurs road win over splash-less Warriors

The Spurs pull away in the second half on the backs of a fantastic effort from the bench.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The current rotation for the Golden StateSan Francisco Warriors is a real who’s who of...who? With injuries to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevon Looney, not much remains of the Warriors dynasty. I don’t feel bad for them though. Not in the slightest. Curry will be out at least three months and Thompson for the rest of the season, opening up ample opportunities for their youngsters to get playing time in preparation for the future.

I laugh when I hear people speak of the Warriors tanking. Have they looked at who’s on the court? Just because a team is losing doesn’t mean they are tanking. They are simply devoid of talent right now. The Warriors will bounce back though. Curry and Thompson will return at some point and they will likely be gifted with a top 10 draft pick in the upcoming draft. Did I mention that I don’t feel bad for them whatsoever?

But I digress. The Spurs did what they were supposed to do tonight, though the game certainly wasn’t without its share of frustrations. Last season the Spurs had one of the worst starting lineups in terms of net rating out of all the teams that made the playoffs and this season hasn’t been any better. Coming into tonight’s game, the foursome of LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Trey Lyles, and Bryn Forbes had a net rating of -7.5 in a team-leading 62 minutes of court time together. That’s the worst rating out of all the Spurs’ 4 person lineups that have played at least 12 minutes together.

The starting lineup once again came out cold, falling behind 11-17 before the bench unit came in and saved the day. Tell me if you’ve heard that one before. The bench ended up outscoring the starters 68 to 59, and very little of that had to do with garbage time points. DeRozan typically gets a lot of burn with the bench unit, but the other starters had a negative net rating until late into the 4th quarter. That’s not good against a Warriors team missing the majority of its firepower.

The talent disparity eventually proved too much for the Warriors to overcome, and the Spurs enjoyed their first double-digit win of the season. The Spurs are now 4-1 on the season and sit atop the Western Conference standings.

Positive Takeaways

  • There was a lot of talk this offseason about the Spurs’ talented and youthful guard rotation and how Patty Mills could end up falling out of the rotation entirely. Well, Mills doesn’t want to hear about any of that nonsense. Mills came into this game with respectable shooting numbers of 8 points a game on 44.4 percent shooting from distance, but nothing had prepared us for what he pulled off against the Warriors. Prior to this game, Mills had scored a grand total of 32 points this season. He dropped 31 in this one, including a tidy 6 for 9 from three. He was also a team-high +23 on the night. I made things tough on the Warriors defense all night, finding open spots and even mixing it up in the paint a little. He looked like World Cup Patty Mills out there. Good on ya, Patty!
  • DeMarre Carroll saw the court for the first time this season, playing 16 minutes and scoring 2 points, dishing off 2 assists, and grabbing 2 boards. They weren’t overly-effective minutes, but it was nice to see the Spurs’ biggest free agent acquisition this offseason get some run.
  • DeRozan was in distribute mode against the Warriors, tallying 11 assists to only 3 turnovers. He also ended up scoring 13 points on 7 shots. DeRozan had come into this game averaging only 2.3 assists, far below his career high of 6.2 that he averaged in his first season with the Spurs. Some of that certainly has to do with Dejounte Murray handling the ball a lot more with the starting unit, but it was nice watching DeRozan working hard to get his teammates involved.
  • Mills wasn’t the only Spurs player who had a season best performance against the Warriors. Rudy Gay scored a season high 16 points on 7 of 9 shooting in only 18 minutes. He was bullying his way to the paint and also hit a couple three point shots. Hopefully his three ball is starting to come back after a slow start to the season.
  • Aldridge was coming off his worst game in a very long time, and the start of this game wasn’t much better. He eventually got into a rhythm, scoring on some easy put-backs and dimes from DeRozan. 22 points on 15 shots to go along with 5 offensive rebounds was certainly a better showing for Aldridge.

Negative takeaways

  • Somebody definitely said something to Lyles after last game because he came out firing early on. Unfortunately, we saw why he’s probably been hesitant to shoot so far this season. He misfired on all four of his shots against the Warriors, putting a quick stop to his temporary aggressiveness on offense. He did grab a career high 14 rebounds, but only one of those came on the offensive side of the court. I have yet to look and see how many of those rebounds were contested, so until I do, I’m not ready to add it to my list of positive takeaways. Very similar to Dante Cunningham last season, Lyles doesn’t seem to do enough things well to have a positive impact on the team, and we all know how that ended for Cunningham.
  • I mentioned this above, but the starting lineup is definitely a negative right now. The NBA has shifted from having a big 3 to having a big 2, and objectively speaking, I think we can all agree that our big 2 of Aldridge and DeRozan fall short of other teams with playoff aspirations. It’s going to be another season very similar to last where the Spurs will consider it a positive if the starters can play the opposing team’s starters even. That will allow the Spurs to use their depth to try and create separation. This approach might not work in the playoffs, but let’s worry about making the playoffs first.
  • I guess DeRozan taking more three point attempts this season isn’t actually a thing, as he’s only attempted one all season. If it’s not something he’s worked on and is not comfortable taking them, then I’m fine with his decision. I do believe his inability to stretch the floor and keep defenders honest - along with his lack of defensive focus - is the main reason advanced statistics show that he’s not typically a net positive on the court despite the other things he does well. If his inefficient long 2 point attempts turned into 3 pointers his effective field goal percentage would be much higher and he would take his game to the next level.

Next game

The Spurs come back home to play LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. It will be a battle of 4-1 teams, and will also give us a chance to see Danny Green again. Speaking of Green, he hit a game-tying buzzer beater against the Dallas Mavericks to force that game into overtime. The Lakers eventually won the game, so Green might be feeling himself a little bit on Sunday.