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Shorthanded Spurs face Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Patty Mills returns to the area of his collegiate success in an unusual role Saturday night when the short-handed San Antonio Spurs take on the Golden State Warriors in a nationally televised contest.

Mills has celebrated 12 homecomings in his NBA career since leaving Saint Mary’s College, located just 20 miles east of Oakland, in 2009.

But he’s started just two of those games, a role he’ll have for a third time Saturday because of injuries to Dejounte Murray (sprained left ankle) and Tony Parker (sore back).

The 29-year-old, who has made just 30 starts since joining the Spurs in 2011, believes he’s ready for the promotion.

“It doesn’t matter who is on the floor, we have a system we all abide by,” Mills declared after getting the news at practice Friday. “We’ve had guys who understand their role and execute it. In that sense, it doesn’t matter who is on the floor.”

Mills has had some enjoyable homecomings both as a starter and as a reserve.

He contributed 34 points as a starter to a 107-101 Spurs win in April of 2012, and twice burned the Warriors for 23 points off the bench, once for Portland in April of 2011 and once for San Antonio in April of 2013.

Overall, he’s gone 12-12 against the Warriors in his career, with five of those wins having come in Oakland.

The Spurs’ chances of making that six will be handcuffed Saturday by the absence of not just Murray and Parker, but also Kawhi Leonard (torn quad) and Rudy Gay (bursitis in right heel).

San Antonio, which has been Golden State’s greatest rival for Western supremacy in recent years, has fallen 7 1/2 games off the pace this season.

The Warriors will attempt to make that 8 1/2 in the wake of an impressive second half that led to a 121-103 home win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.

After having lost two in a row for the first time this season, the Warriors stood tied with the Mavericks 60-60 at the half before limiting the visitors to 43 points in the second half en route to the run-away win.

“I think our talent just took over in the third quarter,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr observed afterward. “We obviously had a lot more talent on the floor tonight than they did.

“It’s a 48-minute game. It’s a long game and it’s one of the reasons we always say if we take care of the ball, over the course of the length of game, we are going to be in good shape. Our talent is going to take over.”

The win was the 249th of Kerr’s career. He will shoot for No. 250 against his one-time coach, Gregg Popovich, the NBA’s active wins leader with 1,185.

Coincidentally, Popovich, a former Warriors assistant, recorded his 250th win at Golden State in 2002. Popovich had 152 losses at the time; Kerr currently has just 52.

Kerr has a 6-5 edge over Popovich in their head-to-head coaching duels. The Golden State coach took the narrow lead in a 112-92 win at San Antonio in November, the clubs’ only previous meeting this season.

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