Patty Mills has been a handy back-up for the Spurs this season. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/AP
Every cloud has a silver lining, and injury concerns for San Antonio could be beneficial, playing time-wise, for a pair of Australians. Sharpshooter Danny Green (broken hand) and big man Tiago Splitter (shoulder) are both out for the next few weeks, which should give greater opportunities to combo guard Patty Mills and 208-cm centre Aron Baynes.
Mills is averaging a touch over eight points per game in what has been his most productive NBA season to date, playing both guard spots behind the likes of Green, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Baynes hasn’t been as prominent averaging just a tick under three points per game in limited minutes, but with the Spurs’ ageing line-up pushing for, what is probably, one last tilt at the NBA Finals with the big three of Parker, Ginobili and Tim Duncan, coach Gregg Popovich will need to nurse his starters through the season. With all that in mind, it should mean increased ‘burn’ for the Aussies heading in to the All-Star break.
On Thursday morning (AEST) the Spurs host Utah , and San Antonio has dominated this series in matches at the AT&T Centre, of late. They’re 25-2 there since May, 1999, and have won 10 of the last 12 clashes between the teams. On Monday, the Spurs won in New Orleans 101-95 with Ginobili making his first appearance since sitting out three straight games with a hamstring strain.
There is no doubt Utah is a better team since rookie point guard Trey Burke took the reins after starting his season late due to a fractured a finger during the pre-season. Jazz started 1-11 but are almost .500 since the former Michigan star came in, and finished victorious in four of their last six. Athletic guard Gordon Hayward went down with a hip injury a week ago, but Alec Burks has stepped in to the starting line-up with aplomb, averaging 25 points over those two games.
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