Nets’ Patty Mills breaks out of slump in big way vs. Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY — An hour-and-a-half before tipoff, coach Steve Nash had professed confidence Patty Mills would break out of his slump. The Aussie guard couldn’t have picked a better time, filling the shoes of an injured Joe Harris perfectly. 

After Harris was forced out of Sunday’s game with a sprained ankle, Mills stepped up with a season-high 29 points. 

Mills was a record-breaking 9-12 for behind the arc. That’s the most by any player off the bench in the NBA this season or by the Nets in their history. 

“Whenever you get the chance to shoot open shots, that’s always better,” Mills said. “But [Sunday]This was one thing where we really tried to play how the defense played it. It allowed us to kick the ball out and get it to the goal, opening up opportunities for open shots. 

“For me, the mindset, I always think about one of my closest friends who doesn’t know a lot about basketball, but he always keeps it simple and says ‘just put ball in basket.’ So that’s what I remembered before the game tonight and it’s amazing because it’s as simple as that sometimes.” 

Patty Mills drills one of his nine three-pointers.
Patty Mills drills one his nine 3-pointers.
NBAE via Getty Images

Mills showed streakiness which may bode well in the coming week. 

“Nine 3s is pretty good to me,” James Harden said. “That’s the beauty of it. It’s a long season and you have tough games, tough stretches, but Patty is a vet. He’s been through a lot and he knows how to get himself out.” 

According to Elias Sports Bureau, he was the only player to shoot all 10 of his initial 3-pointers in NBA history. After that, he had only shot 32.7 percent. He also missed 2 of his previous 13 games. Sunday was his breakthrough game and he provided a needed third option. 

“It’s everything to us. Patty missed a few shots the last couple of games, so we knew he was due for a big night and he stayed,” Kevin Durant said. “His work ethic is top of the line, so it was a matter of time before he started knocking some of those down, and he got it going, and that’s what we need.” 

Harris left the game with only 3:05 remaining in the first-half and didn’t return. 

“No update,” Nash said afterward. “Ankle sprain and we’ll have to assess it when we get home.” 

Harris has been 25-of-42 from deep over his eight previous games and was 2-for-2 against OKC prior to getting hurt. 

With Nic Claxton already out due to a non-COVID illness, Paul Millsap and Day’Ron Sharpe both missed Sunday’s win for personal reasons. Of the trio, Sharpe seems the most likely to return for Tuesday’s clash with league-leading Golden State. 

“Pretty sure Day’Ron will be back, but we’ll see on Paul,” Nash said.

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