Patty Mills has played 45 minutes in his professional career, but before getting into Wednesday night's game against the Celtics, Mills had never once played a meaningful minute in the NBA. Part of that is due to his missing the majority of last season with a broken foot, but even when healthy, the 6-0 guard from Australia saw little of action, and when he did, it was in blowouts.
So it was fitting that on Wednesday in Boston, a city famous for it's Irish heritage, that a man named Patty would finally get his chance to play when it mattered. Mills' eight minutes were two more than he had played the entire season, and the most he had ever played if you don't count the season finale against the Warriors last year, a game in which the Trail Blazers had nothing to play for. The saying goes that it's quality, not quantity, but for Patty on Wednesday, it was both. He finally got a chance to play in a game that was not yet decided in a situation in which Nate McMillan had other options.
"I feel like (Wednesday's game) was my small opportunity that I got," said Mills. "They don't come too often, those opportunities, to get out there and play. Playing in the first half and playing with some of the guys in the first unit, it was important to me to make the most of it."
Mills, who has been a favorite of the fans and the media thanks to his outgoing personality and Australian charm, didn't set the world on fire with his two assist (though one of those was on a spectacular alley-oop to LaMarcus Aldridge
), one rebound performance against the Celtics, but he did the things he needed to do to prove to McMillan that he is a viable option to backup Andre Miller as rookie Armon Johnson continues to learn the intricacies of playing point in the NBA.
"He seemed to be under control and got us into some stuff," said McMillan, a former point guard himself. "Didn't turn the ball over, took care of the ball, so did some good things. I thought they were productive minutes."
Mills will have at least one more chance to prove his worth Friday night against the Wizards. McMillan stated in practice on Thursday that he would once again give Mills the nod over Johnson as the Trail Blazers try to salvage one win from a four-game Eastern Conference road trip that has been one of the worst in recent memory.
"You can't be more under fire than playing against Boston, but it was a tough game to put him in but thought we needed to take a look at him. For him, his first game of the season, so he's going to be cautious with what he does. We'll put him out there (Friday) night)."
Patty wasn't straining his arm to pat himself on the back over his performance, especially in a loss, but he echoed McMillan's assessment of capable yet cautious play against the likes of Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson.
"I think I was solid," said Mills. "I think with the situation that the team is in, my job is to go out there, to bring energy but not get too carried away and stay under control and make sure that everyone else on the floor at that time had a good understanding of what we're in. I did a good job of that and just tried to show pure point guard skills."
If the Trail Blazers weren't struggling so, it's unlikely Mills gets that chance. After losing four-straight, McMillan was willing to try just about anything to give Portland a spark, and Mills was one of the few options for change that he had.
And though the Trail Blazers still lost, they did so showing while showing more grit and confidence, especially in the fourth quarter, than they had in their previous losses to the likes of the Nets and Sixers. Was that due to Patty's influence? That probably wouldn't be fair, let alone accurate, to say, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility to think that the enthusiasm Patty has been known to show on the bench while supporting his teammates had at least a small part in getting the Trail Blazer going in the right direction.
"This is what I've been waiting for the whole season and a quarter I've been waiting for this opportunity," said Mills. "I've been ready for it, to know when I get out there what to do. I feel like I was ready for it. And another thing too; although it was a big game I think the most important thing that we had to do was go out and just play basketball and be ourselves and not get too caught up in what sets to run, making mistakes. Just go out there and be ourselves. That kind of helped a lot."