Canberra’s Patty Mills and San Antonio Spurs through to NBA finals against Miami Heat

Canberra basketballer Patrick Mills says the San Antonio Spurs are desperate to get rid of the “bad taste” left by an NBA finals defeat last year, declaring the team is ready for redemption against the superstar Miami Heat.
Nanjing Night Net

Mills and the Spurs booked their spot in the NBA finals when they beat the Kevin Durant-led Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime 112-107 on Sunday, Australian time, to clinch the western conference title for the second consecutive year.

Mills and teammate Aron Baynes are on the verge of becoming the first Australians in more than a decade to win the NBA championship and join legends Andrew Gaze and Luc Longley.

Mills said he was ready to shoulder a bigger workload if All-Star point guard Tony Parker is injured.

“It’s crazy, there’s about 2000 fans waiting at the airport for us,” Mills told The Canberra Times after arriving back in San Antonio.

“It feels good, really good. All the year in the off-season was to get back to this stage to have another crack at Miami. We felt like we let one slip last year and it left a bad taste, but that has been fuelling the fire to motivate us.”

Mills has overhauled his off-court life to be in career-best form.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Mills was “a little fat ass” when asked why Mills didn’t play more in the 2012-13 season.

To get fit, Mills has cut out guilty pleasures such as strawberry milk and hired a personal chef at the start of the year to teach him how to be healthy and get the best out of his body.

The Heat, which boasts stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, has won the past two NBA titles.

The Spurs led the seven-game finals series 3-2 last year, but lost game six in overtime and then had a heartbreaking defeat in the championship game.

Mills missed the end of the series with a mystery foot injury, but is poised to take on a bigger workload with Parker battling niggling problems.

The Spurs and Heat will start the NBA finals on Friday, Australian time, in San Antonio and Mills will delay his search for a new contract until after the series.

The 25-year-old two-time Olympian is enjoying the best season of his NBA career.

“To go through all the hard work and put in what we have, it feels great to be back there and I’m very proud,” Mills said.

“We didn’t play our best basketball [against the Thunder], it wasn’t pretty but we showed our character, passion and we wanted to get it done.

“It does feel different to last year, we knew we had a lot of work to do and the loss to Miami was burning in the back of our heads.

“Miami has been playing tough all year … we believe in ourselves and we know the basketball we need to play to get the job done.”

Mills wants Australia to adopt the Spurs as “their team” in the battle against the Heat, urging fans to get behind Mills and Baynes in the run to the title.

“Two years in a row in the finals, it’s a great achievement for me and Baynesy but also for Australia,” Mills said.

“I can’t say thank-you enough for all the support from back home, it’s great to see everyone back home getting behind us and hopefully they can keep it up for the finals now.”

Mills failed to score in the clash with the Thunder, but the former Marist College student and AIS graduate says his game continues to improve.

He averaged 10.9 points a game in the regular season, but his scoring has dropped to 6.9 in the play-offs. Send your messages of support to Patty Mills on Twitter or leave a comment below.

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