Yet again, Danny Green was unconscious from long distance in the San Antonio Spurs' Game 5 win over the Miami Heat. But even if he continues to knock down triples at a record pace, he probably won't be the favorite to win the NBA Finals MVP.
Though Green's long-range sniping has been otherworldly, Tony Parker has meant so much more to the Spurs' success.
That's no shot at the Spurs shooting guard, who poured in 24 points and went 6-of-10 from beyond the arc in the Spurs' 114-104 victory. His performance Sunday night, as well as his consistent perimeter brilliance throughout the series, is a huge reason why San Antonio is now just one win away from hoisting another banner into the AT&T Center rafters.
Green hasn't just been brilliant so far; he's been historically good. His 25 made threes (in just five games) are already a finals record. A quick glance at his series shot chart shows just how locked-in he's been.
But the good looks he's been enjoying don't just materialize out of thin air. Sometimes, transition looks open up because either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade are hanging back to complain about non-calls—a particular problem in Game 5. In other instances, San Antonio's deft inside-out passing creates opportunities.
In most cases, though, Green is the beneficiary of Parker's ability to force the Heat defense into difficult positions. When Parker penetrates, he makes the Heat send a second defender to help contain him in the lane. If the Heat are too late in sending that help, one of Parker's patented floaters is almost certain to drop softly through the net.
And if the Heat do provide help to Parker's primary defender, the point guard simply kicks the ball out to an open shooter. The Heat recover well because of their athleticism, so sometimes that first shooter has to move the ball to a second option on the perimeter.
San Antonio lives by the motto "good to great," which embodies their philosophy of ball movement and unselfishness. Players routinely give up good shots to create great ones for the next man in line. As the ball whips around the perimeter after Parker starts the whole process, it can end up in just about anybody's hands.
If we're talking about a Spurs Finals MVP, it's still Parker despite Green going nuts. TP is the beginning, middle and end in SA.— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) June 17, 2013
But in this series, the end result of plays, like the one generally described above, has often been an open shot for Green.
As a scorer totally dependent on setups from his teammates, Green's success is largely determined by how well the rest of the Spurs offense is functioning. Coach Gregg Popovich jokingly alluded to some of Green's limitations in his comments after Game 5.
Asked to compare Danny Green to Bruce Bowen, Pop says, "They're similar in that they both don't have any moves."— Paul Flannery (@Pflanns) June 17, 2013
Pop certainly didn't intend to knock Green, but there's a lot of truth to what he said. Parker, on the other hand, has plenty of moves. What's more, he's the guy who is most responsible for making sure the Spurs' team-wide offensive movement gets going in the first place.
The Frenchman's numbers, though somewhat overshadowed by Green's 18.0 points on 66 percent shooting from three in the series, are still excellent. Parker has averaged 16.2 points, 6.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds on 49 percent shooting in the finals.
Plus, he nailed a crucial shot that helped the Spurs secure Game 1 in the waning seconds.
Even if numbers were all that factored into MVP selection, Parker would have a strong case for earning his second such honor. But because San Antonio is almost wholly dependent on its point guard's penetration to kick-start its offense, it's impossible to ignore just how important he has been to the team's success.
By the way, as much as I love Danny Green this series, if they win Tony Parker is the MVP. He is the center of their offense.— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) June 17, 2013
Anything could happen over the next one (or two) games in this series. If Parker slumps and Green somehow continues his historic run, the front-runner for MVP could change. In fact, if Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili put together a fantastic performance or two, either of them could conceivably walk away with the hardware.
And if the Heat go on to win Games 6 and 7, this is obviously a very different conversation. But assuming the Spurs do take care of business in one of the next two games in something approximating their three wins so far, it's going to be difficult to justify denying Parker the award.