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The Sports Daily > Project Spurs
Mills and Lee Step Up in Spurs’ narrow win vs. Mavericks

San Antonio eked out a 96-91 win at home against a shorthanded Dallas Mavericks squad, and Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich didn’t feel his team deserved the win. “I thought we showed a lack of humility, a lack of respect for the opponent, a very pathetic performance on both ends of the court, both in execution and in grunt, in fiber, in desire. It was an awful performance.”

It wasn’t pretty, but it obviously wasn’t all bad for the Spurs seeing as they won the game. Kawhi Leonard led the team as he usually does with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, and while the starting point guard and power forward rested, the second stringers put in work. Midway through the third quarter with the Spurs down 8 points, David Lee entered the game for Pau Gasol. Lee played inspired basketball, scoring three straight buckets and sparking a 14-3 run to help the Spurs take the lead.

This thunderous dunk started the run, and Kawhi deserves a lot of credit for creating the open shot for Lee. Leonard used Lee’s screen to get open for a pass, and it basically functioned as a pick and roll as Kawhi caught the pass in stride and drove into the lane. Lee’s defender was forced to step up, and Leonard froze him with a pump fake before dropping a bounce pass to the wide open roll man. Lee finished strong at the rim to give the Spurs some momentum.

Lee was fouled on the play, but didn’t convert the and-1 opportunity. After some free throws on both ends, Manu Ginobili found Lee wide open on the wing about 20 feet from the basket. The 6’10” power forward is not known for his range, but he swished the shot home to bring San Antonio within 3. On the very next defensive possession, Lee did his best ‘Kawhi Leonard’ impersonation.

It was a somewhat lazy pass by Justin Anderson, but by no means was it terrible. Lee was coiled like a spring and broke on the ball like a linebacker busting up a screen play. He punched the ball (and the Dallas player) down court, and the intended receiver stumbled into the only defender that would have been able to stop him from throwing down a breakaway dunk. This cut the Dallas lead to 1, forcing a timeout.

A minute later with the game tied at 65 (18 second mark in video below), Ginobili forced up a tough 3-point attempt that didn’t go down. The ball came off the rim towards Lee, who tapped it out to the wide open Patty Mills for a triple. Lee could have easily been called for a loose ball foul, but instead he earned a rebound and an assist with one stab at the ball.

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Lee finished the game with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals on a night where LaMarcus Aldridge rested. Two of his assists were to Mills, who had a great game himself scoring 17 points off the bench. He started the game with a few crisp cuts to the basket which were rewarded with layups, the first of which he finished with his off hand over a much taller defender.

In the third quarter on the possession after the previously discussed 3 off of Lee’s tip-out, Patty dribbled quickly to his left around a Gasol screen and pulled up from the elbow, burying the jumper with a hand in his face. Early in the fourth quarter he used a similar action, but it was a bit higher and the defender fought over the screen. Mills drove his shoulder into the defender’s chest knocking him down, and by the time he got up Patty was draining a step-back 3 in his eye hole.

With under 5 minutes remaining in a close game, Lee stole the ball and saved it under his own basket, starting a fast break. Patty passed to Kawhi, who drove at the right side of the paint before bouncing it to Mills who was slashing quickly to the basket. Harrison Barnes actually recovered well and got in great position to block the lefty layup, only it wasn’t a lefty layup. Mills adjusted in midair to finish on the right side with some English off the glass, using the rim to protect the ball from Barnes’ outstretched hands.

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That nifty layup put the Spurs up 89-86, and the Spurs didn’t give up the lead after that. They very well could have, as they missed shots and played sloppily down the stretch, but the shorthanded Mavericks couldn’t take advantage. Barnes missed a chance to take the lead with 15 seconds left, and after free throws, Seth Curry missed an open chance to tie it from beyond the arc.

Curry channeled his big brother and scored 23 on 5-10 shooting from downtown, and Harrison Barnes had 20 points and 9 rebounds. However, with two minutes left in a one possession game Leonard victimized him to make it a two possession game. Leonard put up team highs for points, rebounds and assists in the game.

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The Spurs rely on Kawhi on both ends of the floor every night, and he had solid production in this ugly win. Neither Mills nor Lee started, but they each logged more minutes and contributed more than Dejounte Murray and Davis Bertans, the young guns who started ahead of them. Coach Pop will have a long day of chastising his team, but at the end of the day, these guys should feel good knowing that they made key contributions to the win.