With the second half of the season in full swing, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers are in the thick of the playoff race in the competitive Western Conference. On Tuesday night, it was the Spurs who bested the Clippers 113-103 at the Staples Center and found their answer for replacing the injured point guard Tony Parker with Patty Mills.
Mills scored 25 points, including 16 in a crucial fourth quarter—a necessary performance given the loss of Parker “for the foreseeable future” due to a multitude of ailments. In addition, Mills took scoring pressure off of Tim Duncan, who was in foul trouble for most of his 38 minutes of action.
"He was great for us," said Duncan. "That fourth quarter, he really took over for that five minutes and gave us the lead that we needed. We were struggling trying to find points and keep the pressure on them, and he just completely took the ballgame over."
The Spurs were able to escape with the victory despite a 35-point, 12-rebound performance from Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin and a 25-point effort from Jamal Crawford. With the win, the Spurs improved their outstanding road record to a league-leading 21-7 and increased their lead over the Clippers to three games for the second-best record in the Western Conference.
Finding help from unlikely sources has been a trademark for Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and he’ll need more of the same from his roster like Mills to make another championship run this season. Moreover, finding players who can step up will buy Parker the time he needs to get healthy for the postseason.
"We're just trying to get him (Parker) healthy," said Duncan. "I mean, players being healthy is so underrated. When people play through things and they aren't 100 percent, the season becomes a grind. So we want to be 100 percent so that down the stretch and in the playoffs, when we ask him to do all that we need him to do, he's ready to go and carry that load on his shoulders."