SAN ANTONIO — For Spurs guard Danny Green, things had not been going well. Not just in Game 1 of the Finals, but in general — dating back to the third game of the Western Conference finals. In that game, Green knocked down seven of the nine 3-pointers he attempted, prompting coach Gregg Popovich to utter what has become a mantra in how Green should approach the game: “If he is open, I want him to shoot.”
Shooting has not come easily to Green since the early stage of the West finals, however. He closed out the series against the Thunder almost an afterthought, shooting 12-for-37, then starting the opener of the Finals against the Heat in an 0-for-5 rut through the first three quarters.
“When I am open, my job is to make shots,” Green said. “No added pressure, I know sometimes I am going to be open, sometimes not. Sometimes, it is going to fall, sometimes it is not. Throughout the years, I have learned, as a shooter, you can’t think about it too much, just shoot. Shooters shoot.”
Looking at how things started, you had to wonder whether Green would ever find his footing as a shooter in this series, though. His first shot was a 3-pointer from the right wing he took under duress, with the game clock down to one second. His second shot was a 3 in a similar situation — second quarter, left wing, just one second remaining on the clock.
He missed a runner in the lane early in the third quarter, and missed it badly — Green is not exactly known as a running shot-maker, and the attempt was an airball. He followed that by missing two more 3s in the third quarter.
But, with 6:07 to go in the fourth quarter, at long last, things changed. Green took a skip pass from Boris Diaw along the left side and knocked down the open look, pulling the Spurs to within one point. Just 28 seconds later, he made another 3, giving the Spurs a lead they would not relinquish.
It was, for Green, a relief.
“It helps with the next one,” Green said. “You feel one go in, you can get a little rhythm, it helps you gain a little rhythm. Once two goes in, it helps with confidence as well. I just continue to shoot the ball and not think about the previous shot. Just stick to the basics, the fundamentals, take my time and hope my follow-through is good. And I finally got one to go.”
In all, Green went 4-for-4 with 11 points in the fourth quarter, a key component of a late-game assault conducted by the Spurs. They were 14-for-16 from the field to close the game, equal parts efficient execution and slumping Heat defense. Now, the Spurs are expecting that Green has found his rhythm and will carry it into Game 2 on Sunday.
“Honestly, the way he shoots the ball, I assume every time he shoots it it’s going to go in,” Tim Duncan said. “So we want to get him as many shots as possible. He’s a confident, capable shooter. And I think Pop has instilled a lot of confidence in him in the fact that when he has a crack, he can shoot the ball. And that takes a lot of pressure off him deciding what shots to shoot and what shots not to shoot. So he hits one or two and then we call a play for him, he hits another one and that really opens up the game for us.”