OKLAHOMA CITY —
Before tipoff Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talked of the tough decisions ahead at the backup point guard position.
He didn’t want struggling Patty Mills to completely decompose on the bench. But he also believed Cory Joseph had earned more minutes with his recent play.
At halftime of what became a 113-88 win over Oklahoma City, Popovich was handed a solution. It wasn’t a great one.
With starter Tony Parker ruled out for the second half with tightness in his right Achilles, Mills and Joseph both got all the minutes they could handle.
Mills finished with 10 points, his first double-digit outing since the last time the Spurs beat OKC on March 25, but went 4 of 11 from the field.
“Obviously from where I was last year, it’s a different challenge,” said Mills, who lost his hold on the backup spot while shooting 32.9 percent in March. “I’m working my way and trying to figure it out. It’s a test of my character that’s for sure.”
Popovich believes it is important for Mills, a shooting star of last season’s NBA Finals, to continue to get opportunities.
“You’ve got to keep giving him shots to get out there,” Popovich said. “You can’t let him just sit on the pine.”
Popovich, however, is not prepared to move completely away from Joseph, who has forced the coaches’ hand by making so much of his latest opportunity.
The 23-year-old University of Texas product, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, averaged nearly eight points and 4.5 rebounds in his first four games since regaining the No. 2 role.
Joseph was again the first point guard off the bench Tuesday, finishing with six points, six assists and five rebounds.
“He’s earned the spot,” Popovich said. “If I don’t play him it’s like, 'What do I gotta do around here?’ You’ve got to reward a guy and let him get minutes.”