Jun 12, 2013, 12:57 AM EST
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There’s an out-of-date phrase – “live by the 3, die by the 3” – that the Spurs have turned on its head.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.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EST
Bryant has played heavy minutes so far this season.
Nov 24, 2014, 7:46 PM EST
Finally, some good news for the Bulls.
Nov 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EST
This would make three Lakers players out for the season with injuries.
Nov 24, 2014, 7:19 PM EST
“I think it would benefit the league to raise the minimum age from 19 to 20.” —Adam Silver
Nov 24, 2014, 6:20 PM EST
Are the 76ers the worst team in NBA history?
Nov 24, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
Well, at least Howard tried.
Nov 24, 2014, 4:45 PM EST
Things are not coming together as quickly as some expected in Cleveland.
Nov 24, 2014, 3:44 PM EST
The bottom of the rankings are pretty obvious, the top harder to put together.
Nov 24, 2014, 3:08 PM EST
It’s in the hair
Nov 24, 2014, 2:33 PM EST
Former No. 1 pick facing felony battery charges
Nov 24, 2014, 1:55 PM EST
Bulls point guard says he’ll return tomorrow against the Nuggets at the latest
Nov 24, 2014, 1:17 PM EST
Pelicans guard dealing with yet another injury
Nov 24, 2014, 12:38 PM EST
Rockets without their two best defensive players
Nov 24, 2014, 11:38 AM EST
Trail Blazers star keeps elevating game. Will he ever level off?
Nov 24, 2014, 10:50 AM EST
Oklahoma City point guard throws down on Warriors
Nov 24, 2014, 10:14 AM EST
Do you prefer the original or the emulator?
Nov 24, 2014, 9:35 AM EST
Utah would reportedly send Jeremy Evans and Toure’ Murry to Brooklyn
Nov 24, 2014, 9:04 AM EST
Rockets center has missed last two games after plasma therapy on knee
Nov 24, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
Memphis can offer more money than anyone else, but Gasol will have options.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Wes did Gallinari wrong.
- Lakers forward Xavier Henry ruptured Achilles in practice, out for season 20
- PBT Extra: Our Thanksgiving week turkeys, starting with the 76ers 1
- LeBron James on Cavaliers’ struggles: “I stink” 15
- PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Life is good in the Golden State 12
- Damian Lillard, as stature grows, refuses to become content 5
- PBT’s Sunday Night NBA Winners/Losers: You may want to try and cover Marc Gasol 11
- Jimmy Butler on Derrick Rose: “We want him to be 100 percent” for the playoffs 12
- Report: Free agent market for Jeff Green is as strong ‘if not stronger’ than it is for Rajon Rondo 20