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Patty Mills reflects on NBA championship glory with San Antonio Spurs

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ASK Patty Mills about his NBA championship celebrations and he will describe them as a blur of emotion.

But if you ask him when he knew his San Antonio Spurs had clinched their NBA Finals series over Miami Heat he provides a vivid recollection.

"There was a time out midway through the third quarter and it felt like there was an opportunity for us to take the game and Manu (Ginobili) had sensed the same thing," Mills said.

"As soon as he sat down he started screaming at everyone, picture him screaming in an exaggerated way, - "this is our moment, it’s right now, it’s right now, we need to do this, it’s right now” - I will never forget that moment.

"I know I came into the game after that time-out or soon after and we managed to make the most of that opportunity.

“We managed to get some stops and make the most of them on the scoreboard."


Mills would shoot 14 of his 17 points in a furious run as the Spurs extended their lead over the tiring Heat from a few baskets to 19 points at the final change.

The win gave them a ‎4-1 series win and extinguished much of the pain caused by their game seven loss to the Heat in last year's finals which the Heat won in the final minutes.

"We were a lot closer than a couple of shots last year – it was just one rebound,” Mills said while speaking to Fairfax Media on Wednesday morning (Australian time).

“(That loss) was on everyone’s faces in the way they carried themselves all year - everyone’s determination and passion was evident.

“We were focused on taking our opportunities and not leaving it to one shot or one rebound or one free-throw miss.”

The Spurs came together on Tuesday (US time) for their first meeting since coating their locker-room in champagne following Monday's title win.

Mills said the meeting began to make him realise the team had achieved its long-held goal.

“When just us players and coaches were in the one, small room, it started to make sense then,” Mills said.

But Mills believes he may never truly come to terms with having such a huge impact on arguably the sport's biggest stage.

"No, no, never did I think I would do that - that will be the hardest part of this process," Mills said.

"To understand the impact I had on the game and being involved in those moments is just so special that there is going to be a stage when I will need to sit down by myself and reflect on it.

“[on court] You just try to live in the moment and make the most of small opportunities – as coach Popovich says you either make shots or you don’t then you live with the results.

“But I was lucky enough those shots were hitting on the day.”

Mills said he was still feeling good at half time despite missing several shots in the first half and having Heat superstar Lebron James make a towering block on an attempted layup.

“A couple of close friends have said to me I was 1-4 or 1-5 shooting going into half time and I didn’t even know that,” Mills said.

“I had no clue, but the feeling I had felt like I had already made a few shots, I think that is the mentality you have as a shooter – if it misses you go on to the next one and that is the feeling I had going into the second half.”

The Spurs were celebrated the world over with their mix of foreign talent combining so well with their American coach Gregg Popovich.

Mills admitted his journey from little-used bench extra to key contributor was largely due to the perfectly crafted role which Popovich demanded of him.

"I came to an understanding very early on (in San Antonio) that you have to remember who you are as a player,” Mills said.

“I’m not a Steve Nash or a Magic Johnson who is going to come out and throw 15 assists and do all these crazy passes, that is not me and it’s not my game.

“I understand my game better and what I do well, what I do is shoot the ball and finds ways to score and that was the feedback from the coaches to me – remember who you are and let the ball fly.”

This season, Mills’ third with the Spurs, he looked like he finally had found a way to remain on the court mixing pressure defence with his strong-shooting – the result was he had a career season in minutes, points and games.

“I think it’s a combination of being given a role from the coaching staff, one, and then two understanding that role and sticking to it,” Mills said.

“You don’t do more than that, just meet that expectation.

“Everyone understood that and we learnt that if everyone did that and had faith in each other we could progress rapidly together.

“Everyone understood that from day one and carried it throughout the year.”

Mills won plenty of admirers post game for covering himself in the Torres Strait Island flag in honour of his dad Benny and his family.

Mills' had an Australian flag as well but passed it to teammate Aron Baynes to wear with the burly Queenslander joking Mills' would have been "covered over" if he wore both flags on his small frame.

ESPN commentators Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson gave their worldwide audience an Indigenous Australian history lesson during Mills' third quarter hot-streak, mentioning Eddie Mabo, Mills' parents and his uncle Danny Morseu, who also played basketball for Australia.

Mills was unaware of their discussion but said he was overwhelmed to hear about it from many of his friends in Australia.

“I think for those people back home who watched it, whether indigenous or not, being Australian and hearing it for themselves was special, and that was what I got a kick out of,” Mills said.

“It’s Australian history and we are proud of it - to educate people not just in Australia but overseas was the next level.

“To use pro basketball to help educate people on our culture is something I’ve always tried to do – so to have it come off like that was special.”

Mills' parents Benny and Yvonne, Morseu and Mills' girlfriend Alyssa Levesque were all in the crowd in San Antonio.

Post game, the outpouring of emotion and relief left Mills in a glorious daze.

“I could paint you a picture but it would be a blurry one,” Mills joked.

“That is how it was, you have all these emotions and feelings – you are looking here and looking there and just trying to work out how to react to such an unbelievable achievement.

“My mum and dad and uncle were in the crowd, so was my girlfriend who has been such a big part of this journey for me and then my US friends, who have become family, were there as well.

“So I was trying to locate them on the court and then to see how many fans were still in the stands celebrating – it was a blur.”

The Australian Boomers play in the FIBA basketball world cup in Spain in August and September with Mills the team’s leading scorer and starting point guard.

But with his contract with the Spurs is finished and several teams are reportedly chasing his signature next season.

Mills may find himself struggling to play for Australia if he hasn’t signed a new contract before the world cup.

Mills has always served the Boomers’ proudly and made himself available for international tournaments and Mills said he hadn’t thought about free agency but wanted to play for the Boomers.

“Everyone is asking me about it but with the amount of hard work and energy that has gone into this year with the Spurs – you kind of don’t want anything else to ruin this moment that we have worked so hard for – I’m going to enjoy it to the max,” Mills said.

“I haven’t thought about anything after that but playing for Australia is very important to me and we will play when we come to Spain.”

Baynes, who is waiting to find if the Spurs will take up a team option to sign him for next season, has said he will definitely play for the Boomers no matter what state his contract is in.

Mills intends to take the next few weeks to rest in San Antonio and soak up the celebrations.

“The Spurs won’t be coming together again until September and with Australian commitments I really only have about two weeks to rest,” Mills said.

“I think I will be doing nothing at all and just resting here in San Antonio.

“I never thought this dream would become real but it has.”

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