NBA Finals, Game 3: Another look at a San Antonio rout
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SAN ANTONIO – It was one of those nights of dreams, unexplainable, unexpected, wonderful.
Gary Neal and Danny Green have years of basketball ahead of them and they may well have great games in their future and no matter what they do or where they do it, they probably won’t ever feel as good as they did Tuesday night.
They are The Other Spurs on most occasions, understudies to the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, good players but not great ones; role players, not headliners.
Until Tuesday night.
A magical, shocking Tuesday night, a night to recall forever, a night when Neal and Green made almost every shot they took, a night when they dominated like they never have.
One of those nights.
Green had 27 points including seven three-pointers, Neal had 24 points including six three-pointers as the San Antonio Spurs stunned the Miami Heat 113-77 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
“It's an unbelievable story, to see where they come from,” San Antonio’s Tim Duncan said of his teammates. “Gary came, played overseas and gets picked up from there. And Danny is with us a couple of times, gets cut, sticks with it, and Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) stayed on him hard. He has developed into a great one for us.”
The significance of their efforts cannot really be diminished; they out-played LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they out-shone Duncan, Ginobili and Parker.
“It's a dream come true,” said Neal. “Me and Danny both went through a lot of stuff together. We were guys that showed up two hours before practice start to get shots up and to prove to the coaching staff that we belong, and we're going to do whatever we need to do to get minutes.
“Danny has been great. He's been a starter since pretty much since he signed the contract here. He's helped us. And we kind of help each other. We kind of play the same position. We kind of have the same role. We feed off Tony and Manu.
“So me and Danny, we were able to play great tonight. But we really feed off each other. Our positive energy.”
They were the story.
“It's been a while since I shot the ball like that,” said Green. “A couple of games in the season I shot it pretty well. But tonight it was totally different level of feeling, a comfort level on the perimeter.
“But they trusted me. We had a comfortable lead, and I just kept running the floor, trying to get open. When I saw daylight, I would just let it fly.”
For the Heat, the capitulation level was stunning. James was a non-factor – he had one spurt of nine straight points near the end of the third quarter but finished with only 15 while Wade had eight in the first quarter but only 16 for the game.
“We got what we deserved,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “They got into an incredible rhythm, even in the first quarter. Every shot they wanted to get they got. We did not disrupt them.
“And then that's the flow. And it just went from there. We never got to our game. The easy ones, rhythm, playing off misses, and then the three-point barrage happened after that.”
James, who shot just 7-for-21 from the field, did not shoot a single free throw and only had five assists.
“I give a lot of credit to Kawhi (Leonard) and Danny,” said Duncan. “We're obviously playing defence as a team, but those guys as the front men have done a great job of staying up into him, making his life difficult. Trying to keep in front of him as much as possible.
“We understand that he thrives in that open court and his athleticism really shows in that open court. If we can keep him in front of us and make his life as difficult as possible, we'll live with the results.”
Now with the next two games at home – Thursday and Sunday – the Spurs are halfway to the fifth championship in franchise history.
The winner of Game 3 in a final series that’s tied after two games has gone on to win more than 90 per cent of the time.