Mills tells his teammates to stay positive, remain patient and keep fighting. On Thursday night, he showed them how to do it.
Mills had 27 points and the Spurs overcame a career-high 41 points from Spencer Dinwiddie to beat the Brooklyn Nets 118-105.
"We've just got to find ways to win," Mills said. "A lot of it comes down to energy and effort. We're working out the kinks of being able to execute a lot more than we have. We're just grinding it, grinding it out and finding ways to win."
Mills had 21 points in the second half, shooting 5 for 8 on 3-pointers as the Spurs rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Nets for the 17th straight home game.
As tough as the defeat was, Brooklyn suffered a greater loss when David Nwaba suffered a season-ending torn right Achilles tendon. Nwaba left a minute into the fourth quarter after dropping to the court following a scramble for the ball near the top of the key.
"It's tough to focus on the game right now," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "He was playing as well as anybody on our team. Tough blow. That's where our hearts and minds are right now."
Already without Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert, Brooklyn played its 17th straight game without injured point guard Kyrie Irving. Dinwiddie tried to cover by shooting 14 of 29 from the field, eclipsing his career high by two points.
"LaMarcus Aldridge was playing the lob a lot," Dinwiddie said. "You just try to be aggressive because he's trying to take away (Jarrett Allen) and they're trying to take away shooters. If they went under, I shot a 3. If they went over, I attacked the basket."
The strategy helped the Nets build a 14-point lead in the first half.
The Spurs closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run and notched their first lead at 83-81 on Mills' layup with 3.8 seconds left. San Antonio was 4 for 9 on 3-pointers in the third, including Derrick White's 3 to tie it at 81.
Mills finished 7 for 10 on 3-pointers.
"He's everything," Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray said. "I've never seen him with an attitude in the four years I've been here. Not an attitude, no head down. He's a real pro."
The Nets never trailed in the first half while the Spurs plodded along. San Antonio committed nine turnovers and shot 40% from the field in the first half.
Brooklyn opened the game on a 12-2 run, including two emphatic dunks by Allen. The second slam came off an uncontested drive that prompted a timeout by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich 3 minutes into the game.
Allen finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Aldridge added 20 points and 10 rebounds for San Antonio.
Nets: Irving did not travel with the team on its two-game road trip as he battles a right shoulder impingement. Atkinson said there is no update on Irving's injury status. Brooklyn is 11-6 in Irving's absence.
Spurs: Former Nets F DeMarre Carroll did not play for the 16th time due to a coach's decision. Carroll is averaging 2.5 points and 10.9 minutes in 11 games since signing with San Antonio as a free agent.
FUTURE HALL OF FAMERS
San Antonio assistants Tim Duncan and Becky Hammon were both nominated for enshrinement into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Popovich said he expects both to enter the Hall, but Duncan's admission comes with a caveat.
Popovich joked that his vote would depend on if the Spurs can turn things around with Duncan as an assistant.
Nets: Host Atlanta on Saturday night.
Spurs: Host Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
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Dinwiddie hits career-high 41 as Nets fall to Spurs
Spencer Dinwiddie has a superb evening, hitting a new career-high 41 points as the Nets fall to the Spurs 118-105.