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There’s an out-of-date phrase – “live by the 3, die by the 3” – that the Spurs have turned on its head.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 21, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
LeBron had 30, Kyrie Irving added 26 to give Cleveland the 2-0 lead in the series.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:41 PM EDT
Devin Harris also out Game 2 for Mavericks
LeBron James on Pat Riley saying ‘No more smiling faces with hidden agendas:’ ‘I don’t care about nonsense’
Apr 21, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT
LeBron says he’s focused on helping the Cavaliers in the playoffs
Apr 21, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT
Bulls forward strained knee in scuffle with Zaza Pachulia
Apr 21, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
Expect to see a lot more Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green) on Paul from the start.
Apr 21, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
He said it was a running joke with a teammate.
Apr 21, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT
Lillard was 5-of-21 in Game 1.
Apr 21, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT
The twins were allegedly part of a group that beat up a man outside a rec league basketball tournament.
Apr 21, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT
Horford is going to have work to do on the defensive end slowing down Brook Lopez.
Apr 21, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Well done, Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Apr 21, 2015, 2:43 PM EDT
Teletovic was originally ruled out for the season on Jan. 23.
Apr 21, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
Is nothing sacred?
Nets coach Lionel Hollins isn’t focused on stopping Kyle Korver: ‘It’s not like we’re talking Stephen Curry’
Apr 21, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
Korver led the Hawks with 21 points in Atlanta’s Game 1 win over the Nets.
Apr 21, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
He’ll consider everything.
Apr 21, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
Another report has Aldridge at no better than 50-50 to re-sign with the Blazers.
Apr 21, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
Williams will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT
Full voting results enclosed.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT
Butler wasn’t wrong — he torched the Bucks for 31 points.
Bucks’ Zaza Pachulia ejected after two incidents with Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic, who left the game due to injury (VIDEO)
Apr 21, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
Mirotic suffered a quad strain, a swollen knee and possibly a concussion.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Klay Thompson was the catalyst for both big Golden State runs.
- LeBron’s 30-point performance leads Cavaliers to hard-fought Game 2 win over Celtics 0
- PBT Extra matchups to watch: Spurs look for ways to contain Chris Paul 1
- PBT Extra matchups to watch: Can Memphis keep Damian Lillard in check? 0
- Report: Suns’ Morris twins charged with aggravated assault 9
- Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer named 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year 9
- With Anthony Davis and Pelicans drained, Warriors deliver down the stretch 12
- PBT Extra matchup to watch: Can Toronto keep Paul Pierce quiet on the court? 6
- Bulls overcome ugly start to take 2-0 series lead over Bucks 14