Patty Mills’ shot went cold in the final minutes of the San Antonio Spurs’ thrilling game 5 playoffs overtime victory against the Houston Rockets, but his coach Gregg Popovich didn’t mind.
Mills had already performed the job Popovich wanted when he elevated the Australian from the bench to be his starting point guard.
The Spurs won 110-107 in San Antonio on Tuesday to take a 3-2 lead in their NBA Western Conference semi-final series.
They are just one victory away from eliminating the Rockets to set up a conference finals series against the Golden State Warriors.
Mills provided the spark Popovich needed, scoring eight first quarter points, including two three-pointers, on the way to equalling his personal playoffs record with 20 points.
“Patty did tonight what he has done for us the entire time he has been here,” said Popovich of Mills who joined the Spurs in 2012.
“Given the circumstances we just wanted to start out better offensively and not get in a hole against these guys because if you get behind you have big problems.”
The Spurs lost their longtime starting point guard Tony Parker to a leg injury in game two and started rookie Dejounte Murray in games three and four of the best-of-seven series.
Mills played a marathon 43 minutes on Tuesday and in overtime only managed one shot, a miss.
With just eight seconds to go Mills made a key defensive play by knocking the ball out of Rockets’ forward Eric Gordon’s hands and then leaping on the loose ball to force a jump ball.
On the next play another Spurs veteran, Manu Ginobili, blocked Rockets star James Harden’s potential game tying shot to seal the victory.
The 39-year-old Ginobili and another experienced campaigner, Danny Green, came up big in overtime for the Spurs with their All-Star, Kawhi Leonard, left on the bench after suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter.
Popovich said after the game he was not sure how serious Leonard’s injury was.