Jun 12, 2013, 12:57 AM EDT
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There’s an out-of-date phrase – “live by the 3, die by the 3” – that the Spurs have turned on its head.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.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Kohl is going to pitch in $100 million to get a new arena built in Milwaukee.
Apr 16, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT
Teams will like his speed, but he’s destined for a second round pick.
Apr 16, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT
While the Lakers end their dreary season Kobe Bryant is already on vacation.
Apr 16, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
Clippers forward: ‘It doesn’t really affect me, but so many guys would probably benefit’
Apr 16, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT
The Spurs have crushed the Grizzlies and Mavericks this season, so those teams are motivated to avoid a trip to the Riverwalk to start the postseason.
Apr 16, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
First team nearly a clean sweep, but one top teamer didn’t even make other two ballots
Apr 16, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT
NBA could still rescind the technical
Apr 16, 2014, 1:32 PM EDT
New research delivers answer
Apr 16, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT
New York based hedge fund billionaires Marc Lasry and Wes Edens are buying the team but keeping it in Wisconsin, they just need to get a new arena built.
Apr 16, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
Two very different candidates signify wide search
Apr 16, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT
Knicks center knows, though, he might have no choice
Apr 16, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT
You can’t do enough Animal House references to make me happy.
Apr 16, 2014, 11:09 AM EDT
Duo leaves Michigan after their sophomore years
Apr 16, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT
How many years feature three of the best records in a franchise’s history?
Apr 16, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
Bulls give Greg Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Lou Amnundson and Mike James multi-year contracts
Apr 16, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Nothing like waiting until the last minute to figure things out.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Nine combined spots on the ballot go to eight different players, and none of our winners made the other two’s top three
Apr 16, 2014, 2:42 AM EDT
Chris Paul and J.J. Redick look good as Clippers ready for playoffs.
Apr 16, 2014, 12:40 AM EDT
Poor Evan Fournier is on the wrong end of a highlight that’s going to get shown a lot for a few days. At least.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:46 PM EDT
Video of one player executing a crossover that drops another player to the floor — you know you’re watching.
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