AT&T CENTER -- Once again in the friendly confines of the AT&T Center, San Antonio Spurs guards Danny Green and Gary Neal were right at home in their comfort zones. A thrice-cut journeyman and an undrafted frr agent, Green and Neal are fitting locker room neighbors. Together, they occupy the corner of the room closest to the entrance, out of the way of everyone else.
On most nights during the regular season they side, side-by-side, swapping stories while the media scrums circle around their more heralded players. Jokes, life lessons, or just a moment from a recent game, the topics vary on any given night. Next year, provided Neal--a free agent--remains with the Spurs, they will have a story to trump any other tale they've shared before. Game 3 of the NBA Finals, one will remind the other, was the night that their little corner became the center of the basketball universe. It was the night two previously unknown players outscored the entire Miami Heat starting lineup, 51-43.
Each has their own humble basketball origins, cast aside by the NBA, only to be unearthed by the Spurs Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford as hidden gems.
"It's an unbelievable story, to see where they came from," Tim Duncan said. "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 stayed on him hard. He has developed into a great one for us."
The Spurs entered Game 3 with Duncan,Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker struggling, having scored just 27 points combined on 10-of-33 shooting in a blowout loss. Afterwards, Ginobili proclaimed that the Spurs had no chance of beating the Heat if those three players committed a repeat performance. Purely in terms of scoring, the trio underperformed that 27-point output by two points, combining for just 25 points in Game 3. But that mattered little as the Spurs set an NBA Finals record with 16 three-pointers, Green getting 27 points on seven three-pointers, and Neal scoring 24 points on six three-pointers.
"It's a dream come true. Me and Danny both went through a lot of stuff together," Neal said after the game, basking in his moment. "We were the guys that showed up two hours before practice to start to get shots up and prove to the coaching staff that we belong."
How deep are the Spurs? If the Finals were to end after three games, the MVP would fall somewhere between Neal, Green, and Kawhi Leonard, who had 14 points, 12 rebounds, and four steals while holding LeBron James under 20 points for a third consecutive game.
"You need guys to step up," Green said. "Sometimes it comes from weird places."
On this Spurs team, it can come from anywhere, provided their star players set the foundations. Though Parker and Ginobili didn't score much, they put players like Neal and Green in position to succeed. In Game 3 the Spurs varied the pace and timing of their passes, making it harder for the Heat defense to get in sync with their rotations to anticipate and jump passing lanes.
"I told [Neal] if they keep trapping me you are going to get the ball and you are going to be able to get shots," Parker said. "I said we need a big game from you."
Neal shot 5-10 in the in the first half, helping the Spurs gain separation. And when the game got tight, it wasn't Parker or James or Duncan answering the call. It was Green blocking a James jumper, and Neal following that block with a three-pointer just before the half to extend to a 50-44 lead.
"I feel like everybody on this team has a story. Pop and R.C. obviously do a great job of finding guys in weird places," Green said. And in fact, they do.
From the bargain bin of the Development League to the most obscure locations in European basketball, Green and Neal arrived on this scene from the strangest of places. Now they reside in the corner of the Spurs locker room swapping stories, reminiscing about that time they put a Spurs team on their backs and stood toe-to-toe with the best the world had to offer
I am not sure how the Spurs are going to approach game 4 with hamstring injured Parker. Apparently, Manu is struggling big time in this series. He looks exactly like in the GS series. It's time for him to step up since TP is injured. Manu can say whatever he wants to say. Just back up his words by action. Green and Neal are not going to have another performance like last night in game 4. However, Green is the only guy consistently knocking down shot in this series. I hope he is going to carry us to the victory. Duncan is still missing some easy shot. He is not in the same rhythm as in Memphis series. Who knows why??? Kawhi is incredible. For three consecutive games, James shot for 7-16, 7-17, and 7-21. That is not a fluke defense from Kawhi and of course with team help. Offensively, TD has to do better job and continue to abuse Bosh, Andersen, and Haslem. I just pray miracle to happen again. Who knows which players are going to have a breakout game and carry Spurs to the victory of game 4. Then Spurs are going to have a good chance to close out the series. One notice, it seems the referees made more calls for Spurs last night. As we know, NBA is all about money. I am afraid the refs are going to call a lot of bad calls against the Spurs in game 4 to tie up the series. Then the Spurs are going to take game 5. Then go on the road for game 6 & 7.
What do you think, Spurs fan?
If all games look like this.. Tony being handled by the Heat, not really getting going. Even if that is the key to the teams success - would Parker get playoff MVP?
In 07, when Duncan was the biggest star demanding most of Clevelands attention Parker capitalized on that and became playoff MVP.
Who decides this award?
Talk about getting ahead of myself.. ..but hey, i'm curious.
I'm thrilled of course for the these 2 guys on a individual basis. The fact that the Spurs have a "SYSTEM" means that roles and expectations are well defined. If on other teams these two guys may have not flourished like they are now with the Spurs. The Big 3 have made it easy for them to come in and develop and grow into contributors with small roles without heavy expectations and pressure. Next up is Tiago, Cory Joseph, and Kawhi is already on that next level for us. We need to keep our heads on straight. This series is far from over!! Did you see Tony's serious and introspective face on the bench?? It wasn't like, "I wish I was leading this barrage," It was more like, "We aren't finished ! How can we attack Heat for next game!"
That was a spectacular shooting display by both Danny and Gary, but I think the MVP of that game was Kwahi, I'm so excited not only about our chances of winning the championship but about our future too.