It was deja vu all over again for Danny Green.
Last year, Green tipped off his first appearance in the NBA Finals by hitting 4-of-9 from three for 12 points in a four-point victory for the San Antonio Spurs. This time around, Green opened the league's championship series with 13 points on 4-of-9 from the field (3-of-7 from three) to spark the Spurs to a 110-95 Game 1 victory over the Miami Heat.
The biggest difference in 2014? His timing. Green missed his first five shots from the field, including each of his first four from beyond the arc, before exploding in the fourth quarter.
As CBS Sports' James Herbert noted:
As Green showed in Game 1, it doesn't matter how many he misses in a row. He's always dangerous, and he'll never hesitate. The Spurs won't let him.
The manner in which Green caught fire must've been all too familiar to the Heat. Green was left wide open on his first make from the left corner, which slimmed San Antonio's deficit to 88-87. The very next time down the floor, Boris Diaw hit Green once again for an easy look from the left wing to put the Spurs up 90-88 with 5:35 left in the game.
San Antonio never trailed after that.
Green, though, wasn't done. A minute later, he hauled in an outlet pass from Tim Duncan and threw it down before Rashard Lewis could recover.
After LeBron James drove in for a layup on the other end (and succumbed to leg cramps in the sweltering heat of the AT&T Center), Manu Ginobili found Green on the right wing for yet another three, one that extended San Antonio's advantage to five points.
All told, Green finished the frame 4-of-4 from the floor, part of a teamwide effort that saw the Spurs torch the Heat's tired defense for 36 points behind an astounding 14-of-16 shooting performance.
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after the game (via the San Antonio Express-News' Dan McCarney):
Spo on Spurs' finish: "It was an explosion at that point. Danny Green shook free for those 3s, and the flood gates came open."— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) June 6, 2014
Miami can only hope that more attentive defense—and functional air conditioning—will be enough to cool off Green's now-hot hand. In last year's Finals, Green's Game 1 eruption was just the beginning of what would become a shooting performance for the ages. He'd hit 21 threes over the Spurs' next four games and finish with a Finals-record 27 bombs before the series was through.
Not that scorching shooting is at all a guarantee of San Antonio's success, particularly against Miami (via the Express-News):
A reminder, Spurs are 72-13 when Green hits at least 3s, but two of those losses came to MIA in last year's Finals.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) June 6, 2014
Nor is a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven series a comfortable one opposite the Heat. Miami has won each of the five previous series of the Big Three era in which it's dropped Game 1.
That includes the 2013 Finals, from which the Heat emerged victorious in seven games.
The Spurs, though, will need more than a replay of last year's heroics to secure their fifth Larry O'Brien Trophy in franchise history. As integral as Green's hot shooting was to San Antonio taking a 3-2 lead in the original matchup between these two teams, the icing of his fingertips was just as integral to the Spurs' shortfall. He shot a combined 2-of-19 from the field, including 2-of-11 from downtown, in Games 6 and 7.
Granted, Green's fall back to Earth wasn't entirely at fault for San Antonio's heartbreaking defeat. A rebound uncollected in Game 6 and a layup unconverted in Game 7 had plenty to do with that, too.
In truth, the Spurs have plenty on which to improve going into Game 2. They turned the ball over 22 times on Thursday night—their worst single-game total of the 2013-14 season.
And only one of which was Green's doing.
Clean up its execution against Miami's trapping defense, and San Antonio should be able to keep its roll going in these Finals. The Spurs gave the ball away just twice over the final nine-and-a-half minutes, during which they outscored the Heat 31-9.
Get Green to go off from three like he did last year, and, well, perhaps the Spurs won't have to endure deja vu all over again.
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