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 went a career-high 9-for-12 from 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] was one of those things where we played how the defense was playing it and we were able to get the ball to touch the paint and kick it out which led to 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.”
Mills has shown a streakiness, which could bode well for the next 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.”
He was the first player in NBA history to make each of his first 10 3-pointers to open a season according to Elias Sports Bureau. He had shot just 32.7 percent since, including 2 of 13 in his prior three games before breaking out and providing a much-needed third option Sunday.
“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 checked out with 3:05 left in the first half and never returned, ruled out with a sprained left ankle.
“No update,” Nash said afterward. “Ankle sprain and we’ll have to assess it when we get home.”
Harris is 25 of 42 from deep in his past eight games, and was 1-for-2 against OKC before 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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