Mills' 32 points lift Spurs over Bobcats 104-100
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
Patty Mills said Saturday night reminded him a little of playing for the Australian Olympic team in 2012.
He was counted on to shoot, score and run the offense.
''The Olympics are fun,'' said Mills, who led all scorers in the 2012 Games with 21.2 points per game.
So was Saturday night.
Mills, getting added playing time for the ailing Tony Parker, turned in a near-perfect game, scoring 18 of his season-high 32 points in the fourth quarter to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 104-100 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats for their fourth win in five games.
Mills was 10 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 5 in the fourth quarter. He also connected on 8 of 9 foul shots and had four 3-pointers to help the Spurs defeat the Bobcats for the sixth straight time.
Parker started for the Spurs and played 26 minutes, but it was obvious he's not back to full speed after sitting out Thursday night with back spasms.
''It's important for all of us to step up, whether you're in the backcourt or not,'' Mills said. ''We have managed to do OK without (Manu Ginobili and Parker). Everyone has been able to collectively step up.''
Mills stayed in the game for the entire fourth quarter, and coach Gregg Popovich made sure he called plays to get him the ball.
''His motor is always going,'' Popovich said. ''He doesn't need me to do anything to get him going. He's a competitor. He's played on the Australian Olympic team for I don't how many years. He's a competitor. He's not impressed with the NBA. He just comes and plays.''
Tim Duncan finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for his 22nd double-double of the season. Nando De Colo tied a career-high with 15 points, including two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to seal the victory.
The Spurs trailed by one entering the fourth quarter when Mills took over, knocking down jumpers and floaters in the lane to push the lead to nine.
The crucial play came with the Spurs leading 99-95 with 26 seconds left when Josh McRoberts stole the ball from Duncan at the top of the key. But an overanxious McRoberts, looking ahead to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for a fast break, turned the ball over.
Charlotte cut the lead to 102-100 when Henderson knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner after corralling an offensive rebound with 3.1 seconds left, but De Colo put the game away for the Spurs, who own the league's best road record.
''He was incredible tonight,'' said teammate Boris Diaw. ''He really stepped up and made some incredible shots and brought a lot of energy.''
Henderson said Mills is a tough player to cover.
''Not only is he a good shooter, he's a smart scorer and he can set the team up,'' Henderson said.
San Antonio came in having won its last three games against the Bobcats by an average of 28 points.
In this one, the Spurs never led by more than four points in the first three quarters.
The Bobcats jumped out an 18-6 lead behind Jefferson, who was active in the low post on both sides of the ball with 10 points and three steals in the first quarter.
Popovich countered by moving the more physical Diaw to bang in the low block with Jefferson instead of Duncan. Diaw turned out to be the best option, particularly with center Tiago Splitter sitting out with a calf contusion.
That helped slow Jefferson and the Bobcats. Jefferson was limited to four points the rest of the half with the Bobcats missing 22 of their last 31 shots before the break.
''He keeps (Jefferson) in front of him better,'' Popovich said of Diaw. ''And he stays down on Al's pump fakes, which are maybe the best in the league. They're ridiculous.''
Charlotte is clinging to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and aiming for its first playoff berth since 2010.
''We didn't play with level of discipline that we need to,'' Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. ''It was a good effort but we're going to have to play a much more disciplined game to beat a team like that.''
NOTES: Along with Ginobili and Splitter, the Spurs were without Marco Belinelli (back spasms), Kawhi Leonard. ... Jefferson had scored at least 30 points in four of his last five games. Charlotte fell to 13-6 in games when Jefferson scores 22 points or more. They are 4-19 when he doesn't. ... Kidd-Gilchrist had a season-high 12 rebounds for the Bobcats. ... Mills' 18 points in the fourth quarter were the most in any quarter by a Spurs player this season.