It was only five minutes. But it happened.
Patty Mills made his much awaited National Basketball Association debut with the Portland Trail Blazers last night, going for two assists in five scoreless minutes of court time. The moment that Aussie basketball fans have waited for now out of the way, Mills can now relax a little more into his role as short-minutes speed merchant and hopefully get a chance to put some points on the board in his next game (tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies).
Patty’s debut – in detail
The game started out slowly for the Blazers, as Brandon Roy was clearly not on song. Both teams were quite messy and the score remained close as the Clippers held the upper-hand despite a multitude of turnovers.
The two exceptions to that slow start were the aggressive offensive play of Martell Webster, which was a welcome sight and the inspired offensive leadership of Andre Miller. Was Miller buoyed by the arrival of Mills’, another point guard eating away at his minutes, putting a bee under his bonnet? Or did he just welcome the challenge against Baron Davis? Whatever it was, it had Miller playing like a star, getting to the hoop and dishing out assists like hot dinners — in particular to Webster.
With 10:23 to go in the second quarter, Mills had his name called by Nate McMillan and entered the game. Immediately upon entering the court, he began playing full-court defence on Sebastian Telfair — a great match-up of speed if ever I’ve seen one. Mills was charged with using his speed to his advantage in the same way with the Stampede in the D-League.
He did not bring the ball up on his first offensive set, but rather set-up on the wing, off the ball. With 8:52 to go, he got his first chance to set up the offence, getting the ball to Jerryd Bayless. He continued from there to get into the right spots on the floor, running with a lot of purpose and mostly setting up on the wings where he was quite open on a couple of possessions from the three-point line, but didn’t see the ball.
Telfair did get the best of him on a defensive play, where Bassy drove to the basket, picking up the shooting foul on Mills. It must be said that he stayed in front of Bassy the whole way, which is no mean feat.
Then with 8:23 on the clock, he brought the ball out of a timeout and set-up Martell Webster with the assist in the corner for a four-point play. With Mills’ first NBA assist out of the way, he was dragged out of the game by McMillan, for Miller.
He then sat the remainder of the way, as the Blazers struggled through a night where they looked clearly under-manned, particularly with Roy out of sorts offensively. He finally saw a chance to get back on the court in the final garbage three minutes and put up three 20 foot jumpers off high picks, none of which connected.
No doubt he had a tonne of opening night jitters about him, so I’ll be interested to see how he performs in his next chance at playing time (hopefully tonight against the Grizz). He looked to understand the offence well enough, showed a great handle on the ball, but just didn’t get his shot going. All of that will be fine-tuned, no doubt. Not too much we can read into one game.
Images from the game
I pulled quite a few screengrabs during the game, so here is a summary of the game in pictures.
Highlights from the game
Here are the video highlights from NBA.com:
And here is another set of video highlights:
Before the game
Mills obviously was not expecting much playing time coming into the game. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian had this piece prior to the game:
“I’m not expecting anything major,” Mills said about his NBA debut, “but I’m going to be ready for whatever position I’m put in and try to make the most of it.”
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said Mills would be “insurance” and play only if the opportunity presents itself against the Clippers. In addition to Mills, a rookie second-round draft pick, the Blazers will dress just two point guards (Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless) for the second consecutive game.
Mills rejoined the Blazers after a two-game stint with the Idaho Stampede of the D-League, where the second-round draft pick averaged 30.0 points and 7.5 assists and made 21 of 37 field goals, including 11 of 15 three-pointers. In his debut, he finished with 38 points and 12 assists and one game later, on Sunday night, Mills scored the game-winner with 1.2 seconds remaining.
“There were a lot of things that motivated me for the games,” Mills said of his professional debut. “But most of all, I was just excited to get out there and play. I was given an opportunity and just went with it. And it ended up pretty good.”
“I’m just approaching it like, well, you don’t really get this kind of opportunity all the time,” he said. “So I’m treating it like it’s the last and going all out.”
Game result / statistics
Los Angeles Clippers 105 – Portland Trail Blazers 95.
Notable Blazers statistics
Patty Mills: 5 minutes, 0 points (0/3 FG), 2 assists, 1 PF, +5 on +/-
Martell Webster: 25 points (9/15 FG, 5/9 3PT, 2/3 FT), 6 rebounds.
Andre Miller: 22 points, 16 assists, 3 steals, 3 charges drawn, 3 rebounds.
Brandon Roy: 6 points on 3/12 FG.
Notable Clippers statistics
Baron Davis: 15 points, 9 assists, 8 turnovers.
Chris Kaman: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 turnovers.
Eric Gordon: 19 points, 4 turnovers.
Marcus Camby: 9 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, +15 on +/-