Assuming the San Antonio Spurs needed a big game from their original big three, consisting of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, to win game 3 of the NBA Finals, was reading the signs wrong. Gregg Popovich did enjoy a triplet performing the way stars should, but it was the trio of Gary Neal, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard that gave them the lead in the series once again.
The San Antonio Spurs have never seen their older trio score only 25 points in a playoff game they’ve all been involved in, combining for 10-23 from the field. But when none of them has to play 30 minutes, it means it’s been either a very good or a very bad day. This time, with Danny Green and Gary Neal going on a wild, wild ride from beyond the arc, it was an excellent day.
The Spurs won 113-77, the third biggest margin of victory in the history of the NBA finals, the team’s second largest postseason victory in franchise history (40 points over the Denver Nuggets comes first, 1983) and the second time in which they’ve won by more than 30 points in these playoffs, beating the Lakers by 31 in the first round sweep.
The difference between this game and the first two? The Spurs’ offense worked, and it didn’t even need Tim Duncan or Tony Parker to be special. The ball movement was perfect, as the Spurs finished with 29 assists on their 43 field goals, and their three point shooting couldn’t be any better. They took 32 shots from beyond the arc, hitting 50% of them, en route to a new Finals record with 16 three pointers.
The men incharge? First and foremost is Danny Green, finishing with 27 points, hitting 7-of-9 from beyond the arc, which puts him at 19-of-30 from beyond the arc so far this series, averaging 18.7 points per game, more than any other player. His defense didn’t go unnoticed to, spending a lot of time on LeBron James, probably delivering the most crucial defensive play of the night in hindsight.
The Heat struggled all through the game, but kept going on runs to bring them back during the first half, including tying the game at 44 with 37 second left in the game, mostly thanks to the sharpshooting of Mike Miller, who was a perfect 5-of-5 during his 22 minutes on the floor, which is probably all that he can give at this stage of his career. Tony Parker hit an open corner three, and Danny Green blocked LeBron James on the following possession, as the Spurs rushed things to give Gary Neal a chance to hit another three pointer and go down with a six point lead at half time.
From there, it got worse and worse for the Heat, as the Spurs kept floating away. They made it more than 20 points in the third quarter, but a late third quarter awakening from LeBron James got the Heat back into reasonable territory. The fourth quarter was the final blow of the sledgehammer, as the Spurs wouldn’t give an inch on defense, winning the final period 35-14.
Gary Neal scored 24 points on 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, as the Spurs, especially him and Green, seemed more and more daring with their shots as the game moved on and the win was pretty much in hand, hitting a few shots from distances most players don’t even try to shoot from, even if they’re open.
Offensively, things couldn’t have gone better for the Spurs, but this time it had nothing to do with luck. Their defense remains intact with the excellent job Kawhi Leonard is doing along with Danny Green in clogging the pain along with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, while the offense finally had the explosive game it was destined to have at some point, even without one of their stars needing to go out of his way to force things to happen.