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Short-handed Spurs good enough to beat Warriors

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Associated Press
4/27/2012 1:31:05 AM
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- For the second straight night, Patty Mills showed San Antonio he's capable of scoring in bunches.

The timing is good, too, with the Spurs racing into the post-season as the top seed in the West -- even though Mills will be back in a reserve role.

On a night San Antonio played without its top three players and coach Gregg Popovich, Mills looked a lot like the player many have compared to Spurs teammate Tony Parker.

While Parker joined Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili back in San Antonio to rest for the playoffs, Mills had career highs of 34 points and 12 assists to help the short-handed Spurs beat the Golden State Warriors 107-101 on Thursday night.

"Chances don't come up very often where you send your three big dogs back to San Antonio," Mills said. "I was very pumped to have this opportunity. I felt very comfortable to just slide in there and take it on with both hands."

DeJuan Blair had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and James Anderson added 19 points for San Antonio (50-16), which finished with the best record in the Western Conference despite having one of the league's oldest rosters.

The Spurs host Utah in the first round of the playoffs beginning Sunday and head into the post-season on quite a roll. They've won 10 straight and 21 of 23 overall, even though Popovich has been resting his starters for much of the past two weeks.

Popovich wasn't at the game in Golden State but had to have liked what he saw from Mills.

Mills scored 14 points in the first quarter, then made three key baskets in the final four minutes, including a clinching 19-foot fadeaway jumper with 14 seconds left to help San Antonio sweep the three-game series.

Mills' big night came 24 hours after he set his previous career high of 27 points in the Spurs' 110-106 win over Phoenix.

"For some of us, we weren't as familiar with him," said San Antonio assistant Mike Budenholzer, who coached in place of Popovich. "To see it firsthand, he's been pretty impressive. He's helped us down the stretch for the last two or three weeks."

Now the Spurs can turn their attention to the post-season and a march toward a fifth NBA title.

Golden State, on the other hand, is focused on the draft lottery.

The Warriors (23-43) tied New Jersey for the seventh-worst record in the NBA. A draw will be held Friday to determine which team gets the higher seeding. In Golden State's case, it could mean the difference between retaining its first-round pick in the draft or losing it to the Utah Jazz.

"Now that it's over, you've got to look at it that way," Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. "But in the middle of it we were trying to win. The process is now over and we're pulling for a high pick."

The Warriors, decimated by injuries, were also short-handed and became the first NBA team in modern history to start five rookies in one game.

Already missing point guard Stephen Curry (ankle surgery), forward David Lee (abdominal surgery) and centre Andrew Bogut (ankle), Golden State also held out forward Dorell Wright (right ankle sprain), centre Andris Biedrins (mild concussion) and guard Nate Robinson (hamstring) in the finale.

Jackson, who played 17 seasons in the NBA, might have been tempted to suit up, so thin was the Warriors' roster.

Instead, he fielded a unit of guards Klay Thompson and Charles Jenkins, forwards Chris Wright and Jeremy Tyler, and Mickell Gladness at centre. Thompson, Jenkins and Tyler are all Warriors draft picks, while Wright was a training camp invitee and Gladness joined the team after signing a 10-day contract earlier this month.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, which has been tracking the stat since the 1970-71 season, it's the first time an NBA team has started five rookies in a game.

Chris Wright led Golden State with 25 points and eight rebounds, while Thompson scored 17 points.

With all of the inexperience on the court -- San Antonio started four players with two years or less in the NBA -- the game got sloppy at times.

The lack of experience didn't bother Golden State's youngsters early on.

All five rookies played the entire first quarter and helped the Warriors overcome an early seven-point deficit to take a 29-27 lead.

"Us rookies, it's going to pay dividends for how much we played throughout the season," Thompson said. "Chris Wright got his opportunity tonight and ran with it."

Thompson made a 3-pointer that put Golden State up 44-41 midway through the second, then Gladness later hit a one-handed runner in the lane to make it 52-47.

Mills, who had 14 points in the opening period, pulled the Spurs within 54-53 at halftime after making a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer.

San Antonio came back behind Mills and led for most of the third quarter but couldn't shake the Warriors until late in the fourth quarter.

Notes: Lee underwent successful surgery earlier Thursday in Philadelphia to repair torn abdominal and abductor muscles. The injury sidelined Lee for the Warriors final eight games. He will be restricted from on-court activities for 4-6 weeks. ... Despite its troubles on the court, Golden State finished with the third-highest average attendance in franchise history (18,858). ... A Warrior fan was given the opportunity to win $1 million at the end of the third quarter but the man, an Oakland citizen, missed the shot from three-quarters court.

DeJuan Blair (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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