At the end of the first half, San Antonio¡¯s top scorers Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge had combined to connect on 2 of 11 for five points, which is why the Spurs¡¯ bench rose up at just the right time. San Antonio¡¯s reserves contributed 44 of the team¡¯s 94 points, with each of them playing approximately 15 minutes or more, led by Mills with 29 minutes of action.
The Spurs have now captured 12 consecutive road victories dating to last season, which ties the longest overall road streak in franchise history, and their revamped bench played a major role. At times during the 2015-16 season, San Antonio¡¯s bench carried the team, only to fall flat in the team¡¯s series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.
¡°The bench wasn¡¯t as productive in the playoffs,¡± reserve forward Kyle Anderson said. ¡°I wouldn¡¯t say we weren¡¯t productive. We just didn¡¯t have that spark that we normally did.
I thought the second unit was great all [last] season, but not in the playoffs. I guess we sort of leveled off last season. So that¡¯s been a focus for this year¡¯s bench: to stay on it the whole season. That¡¯s what we take pride in: bringing that juice off the bench. Every game, no matter who it is, we look at it as something we want to make sure we handle and stay on top of every game. That¡¯s why we always say, ¡®Make sure you bring that juice off the bench,¡¯ because we always want to be a spark off the bench.¡±
The group certainly did as much against the Mavericks. The second unit turned over the ball only one more time (six) than the starters, dished two more assists (nine), nabbed three steals and blocked three shots; all numbers comparable to contributions from the first group.
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¡°We have a great first unit. But everybody is going to have off nights, and it¡¯s our job that when that happens to come in and pick them up, and to use one of our biggest advantages, which is our depth,¡± said David Lee, who contributed seven points and five rebounds.
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It really comes with us coming in and playing with the proper energy. If we do that, it¡¯s not always going to show up in the stat book because sometimes our minutes [are limited] depending on how the first unit does. Our goal, myself, Patty, Manu, Dewayne, guys like that, Jonathon Simmons, we¡¯re coming in talking about how we¡¯ve got to come in with energy and juice. That¡¯s what we did tonight.¡±