OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — Patty Mills had career highs of 34 points and 12 assists, DeJuan Blair added 22 points and 13 rebounds, and the short-handed San Antonio Spurs beat the Golden State Warriors 107-101 on Thursday night.
James Anderson added 19 points for San Antonio (50-16), which finished with the best record in the Western Conference despite having one of the league’s oldest rosters. The Spurs host Utah in the first round of the playoffs beginning Sunday.
Mills took over the scoring load for San Antonio after the team sent its Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker home on Wednesday to rest for the postseason. Coach Gregg Popovich also missed the finale while tending to a personal matter.
The Warriors, decimated by injuries, were also short-handed and became the first NBA team in modern history to start five rookies in one game.
With all of the inexperience on the court—San Antonio started four players with two years or less in the NBA—the game got sloppy at times.
Mills, who previously played in Portland before joining the Spurs in the offseason, was one of the few players who stood out.
He scored 14 points in the first quarter, then made three key baskets in the final four minutes, including a clinching 19-foot fadeaway jumper with 14 seconds left to help San Antonio sweep the three-game series.
Mills’ big night came 24 hours after he set his previous career high of 27 points in the Spurs’ 110-106 win over Phoenix.
Now the Spurs can turn their attention to the postseason and a march toward a fifth NBA title.
Golden State, on the other hand, is focused on the draft lottery.
The Warriors (23-43) tied New Jersey for the seventh-worst record in the NBA. A draw will be held Friday to determine which team gets the higher seeding. In Golden State’s case, it could mean the difference between retaining its first-round pick in the draft or losing it to the Utah Jazz.
The Warriors need all the help they can get after becoming the first team in more than 40 years to start five rookies.
Already missing point guard Stephen Curry (ankle surgery), forward David Lee (abdominal surgery) and center Andrew Bogut (ankle), Golden State also held out forward Dorell Wright (right ankle sprain), center Andris Biedrins (mild concussion) and guard Nate Robinson (hamstring) in the finale.
Coach Mark Jackson, who played 17 seasons in the NBA, might have been tempted to suit up, so thin was the Warriors’ roster.
Instead, Jackson fielded a unit of guards Klay Thompson and Charles Jenkins, forwards Chris Wright and Jeremy Tyler, and Mickell Gladness at center. Thompson, Jenkins and Tyler are all Warriors draft picks, while Wright was a training camp invitee and Gladness joined the team after signing a 10-day contract earlier this month.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, which has been tracking the stat since the 1970-71 season, it’s the first time an NBA team has started five rookies in a game.
The lack of experience didn’t bother Golden State’s youngsters early on.
All five rookies played the entire first quarter and helped the Warriors overcome an early seven-point deficit to take a 29-27 lead.
Thompson made a 3-pointer that put Golden State up 44-41 midway through the second, then Gladness later hit a one-handed runner in the lane to make it 52-47.
Mills, who had 14 points in the opening period, pulled the Spurs within 54-53 at halftime after making a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer.
San Antonio came back behind Mills and led for most of the third quarter but couldn’t shake the Warriors until late in the fourth quarter.
Chris Wright led Golden State with 25 points and eight rebounds, while Thompson scored 17 points.
Notes: Lee underwent successful surgery earlier Thursday in Philadelphia to repair torn abdominal and abductor muscles. The injury sidelined Lee for the Warriors final eight games. He will be restricted from on-court activities for 4-6 weeks. … Despite its troubles on the court, Golden State finished with the third-highest average attendance in franchise history (18,858). … A Warrior fan was given the opportunity to win $1 million at the end of the third quarter but the man, an Oakland citizen, missed the shot from three-quarters court.
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