I don’t have many hard and fast rules, but this is one of them: Whenever one of my favorite ex-Spurs completely outplays Russell Westbrook in a nationally televised Christmas Day game, I write about it. I do this even though we don’t spend much time at Pounding the Rock writing about non-Spurs games — at least, not until the NBA Finals.
“The Lakers have brought in several knuckleheads and a bunch of minimum contract old guys to surround LeBron James and Frequently Injured Anthony Davis. How will this work? No one knows, but they might have the best chance against the Nets in the NBA Finals. The Lakers season could also turn into a Westbrook as the arsonist dumpster fire. As I said, no one knows.”
Looking back on that now, the FI-AD description of Anthony Davis holds up well, the comment that the Lakers might have the best chance against the Nets certainly does not — and the clunky sentence about Russell Westbrook remains clunky but, for last night at least, very prescient.
The second relevant recent piece looked at how former Spurs players around the league are doing this season. I wrote this about Patty Mills:
“Spurs fan favorite Patty Mills is starting at shooting guard. Or perhaps more accurately, Patty is starting at “three-point shooting guard”. He is shooting almost seven three-pointers per game, and making an incredible 48% of them. As a result, he is 4th on the Nets in scoring — and also 3rd in minutes and assists behind two guys you may have heard of. Good on ya, Patty!
I still can’t root for the Nets, but I do watch their box scores to see how LMA and (especially) Patty are doing. Essentially, I hope that they continue to do well but that the Nets lose.”
And most recently, Mills won a poll to name the best Spurs’ Shooter of all time, just beating out My Man Manu Ginobili.
Last night, I rooted for the Nets to lose, but for Patty to do well — which means I received one of the two things I wanted for Christmas. Patty played so well that the Nets simply were not going to lose. I have to admit that when Patty drilled his eighth three-pointer with 1:34 left in the game (an NBA Christmas Day record), my happiness for Patty led to a big smile, even though that shot put the Nets up by five. Westbrook’s missed lefty dunk a minute later clinched the game for the Nets and the loss for the Lakers.
And now it’s time for a Fun with Box-scores deep dive comparing Mills’ game with Westbrook’s last night. Patty’s game was a box-score gem, while Russell’s was ... not. Patty only needed 17 shots to score his 34 points, while Westbrook needed 20 shots to get to his 13 (going 4 for 20 from the floor will do that). Patty went 8 for 13 from three, while Russell went 0 for 3 — consistent with his 30% rate for the season. And while he did have a triple-double, he just sneaked in with 12 boards and 11 assists, and three turnovers. Patty was much more efficient, with 7 assists to zero turnovers.
Add it all up, and Patty Mills was a team-best plus 19 for the game, while Russell Westbrook was an incredible (and team-worst) minus 23.
Keep in mind that Patty signed with the Nets as a free agent, meaning the Nets did not give up anything for him, while the Lakers traded three good NBA players and three draft picks to get Westbrook (and his huge contract). Based on last night, and the teams’ records, which team made the better deal?