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There’s an out-of-date phrase – “live by the 3, die by the 3” – that the Spurs have turned on its head.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.
Aug 4, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT
I’m no fashion critic, but they’re not bad.
Aug 4, 2015, 9:14 AM EDT
Somehow I bet he still cashes his paychecks rather than actually playing for free.
Aug 4, 2015, 8:34 AM EDT
Even if he could sign an extension, he wouldn’t.
Aug 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The Morris twins have denied any involvement, or even knowing the victim.
Aug 4, 2015, 1:05 AM EDT
Thinking long-term is the smart approach, the only one the Mavericks should consider
Aug 3, 2015, 11:17 PM EDT
Kobe Bryant is Beatles during the British Invasion level popular in China.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:59 PM EDT
Brooklyn could have easily kept Clark through training camp
Aug 3, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
Pacers star maintains status as lock for 2016 Olympic roster – if he wants to play
Aug 3, 2015, 8:16 PM EDT
Trayce Thompson gives Thompson family yet another professional athlete
Aug 3, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT
That’ll keep him a viable candidate for 2016 Olympic roster
Aug 3, 2015, 6:33 PM EDT
…with one exception
Aug 3, 2015, 5:36 PM EDT
Dallas loading up on players. What will roster look like in November?
Aug 3, 2015, 3:58 PM EDT
Will new Sacramento assistant coach improve Cousins’ relationship with George Karl?
Aug 3, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT
Does Melo fit in New York?
Aug 3, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
NBA teams played 70 four-in-fives last season
Aug 3, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT
“I didn’t miss it. I realized how much time I missed not being home with my kids.” —Ray Allen on last season
Aug 3, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT
Nike may well match.
Aug 3, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
Denver has until Oct. 4 to make a decision.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
The Kings were never a likely landing spot.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
We bring you this, because it’s August.
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