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Danny Green and Gary Neal lead Spurs’ historic 3-point shooting night

Jun 12, 2013, 12:57 AM EDT

Get ready, Tracy McGrady, Corey Joseph and Patty Mills. Nando De Colo and Aron Baynes, you might suit up too. Even Stephen Jackson should be on alert.

It seems Gregg Popovich can play any guard and get an elite performance in these NBA Finals.

Danny Green – cut by the Cavaliers and twice by the Spurs between stops in Erie, Reno, Austin and Slovenia – not long ago appeared like he had no NBA future. Gary Neal fit that profile the moment he sit foot on camps at Towson, one of the worst college basketball teams in the country, and remained on the edge of the radar during stops in Spain and Italy.

Yet, Green and Neal were hitting 3-pointers all over the court and leading the Spurs to a 113-77 win over the Heat in Game 3. Not only did Green (27 points on 7-of-9 3-point shooting) and Neal (24 points on 6-of-10 3-point shooting) lead the game in scoring, nobody else came within seven points of them. They were the best players on the floor by far.

Green, who made 5-of-5 3-pointers in Game 2, leads the Finals in points – ahead of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and everyone else. No other Spur besided Green has scored more than Neal.

Keep in mind, Green scored just 10.5 points per game this season, and Neal’s averaged even fewer at 9.5.

No two teammates had each scored 24 points in a Finals game with such a low combined scoring average since at least 1963, as far back as Basketball-Reference.com’s relevant records go, but this performance was revolutionary in more ways than one.

There’s an out-of-date phrase – “live by the 3, die by the 3” – that the Spurs have turned on its head. They set an NBA Finals record by making 16 3-pointers, but the only reason they accomplished that is having the guts to take 32 shots from beyond the arc. Popovich has figured out that 3-pointers present such high value, there’s really no undue risk in crafting a gameplan based on getting shots beyond the arc.

Not only does the plan work strategically – San Antonio’s offensive rating tonight was a staggering 125.1 – it excels psychologically.

Instead of worrying about getting pulled for missing 3-pointers, as they would have done while playing for the previous generation of coaches, Green and Neal engaged in the best individual battle of the Finals since LeBron James and Tony Parker were matched up late in Game 1. Into the fourth quarter, they went back and forth for the scoring lead.

Neal took a took a 14-5 lead at halftime thanks to his buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but Green scored the next eight points between the two to get within 14-13. Neal stretched his lead to 24-13, and again Green answered, this time with 14 more points for a 27-24 win over Neal.

The Spurs were competing with each other, because the Heat couldn’t.

Green and Neal won’t always shoot this well, but they undoubtedly believe they can. At this point, all the Spurs should believe they’re perfectly positioned.

  1. Sports King of this world - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:21 AM

    What a massive outpouring of shots. That was crazy lol

    • hehateme2 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:30 AM

      Great shooting from the Spurs. Let’s see if they can keep it up. I say Heat in 7.

  2. txnative61 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:41 AM

    As smart a Pops is, he’s hardly the first to recognize the value of the three. And you can add that a clear view of the basket is much easier to get out their, even easier with a lot of ball movement, and strong inside play if they come out to try to guard the perimeter puts the icing on the cake. They didn’t reinvent the wheel—just executed to perfection—-which IS a trademark of Pops coached teams.

  3. saint1997 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    Aron Baynes is an Australian centre not a guard mate

  4. gmen16 - Jun 12, 2013 at 3:03 AM

    No need to hate on Towson. They will be in the tourney next year. Book it.

  5. cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:57 AM

    Green & Neal jersey sales up in South Florida. Leave it to the bandwagoners!

    • hehateme2 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:30 AM

      you’re a boring little troll aren’t you.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:35 AM

        Jump bandwagoner, Jump!!

  6. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    You’re a pathetic excuse for a human being. Get a family or friends or something. You come on here posting the same stuff over and over. None of it being relevant because you know nothing about the game. You just need attention. Loser

  7. fiyeaglesfiy - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    Gotta put Kahwi Leonard in that “best player on the court” conversation as well. May not have put up 20+ but has scored very efficiently, been making plays on defense, making Lebron work for his points, and coming up with loose balls…

    • bougin89 - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      I totally agree. Leonard has been very, very good. He is a machine on defense. His huge hands just snatch up every loose ball it seems like.

  8. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Leonard right now is going under screens and getting a lot of help if lebron beats him. Pop deserves most the credit for his defense. He is out hustling everyone however

  9. bball1950 - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Team defense and Team offense usually wins. San Antonio moved the ball on offense to get open looks last night. Miami did it the game before as Mike Miller and Ray Allen got off open shots. Danny Green got good looks. When Lebron is looking to go to the hoop he sees the double and triple team coming so he passes to the open man. The role players for Miami have to hit their shots. Lebron will have to attack the defense and shoot his jumper more for Miami to win.

  10. azarkhan - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    My favorite Gary Neal play last night was when he made a perfect pass to Danny Green for a corner three while losing his footing and falling down. Green made the shot (his first) and both Spurs hustled back on defense. Great Spur basketball.

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