Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green Key in Spurs' Game 3 Romp over Heat

Jared Dubin@@JADubin5Featured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and guard Danny Green (4) defend Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6), during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Right from the start of San Antonio's Game 3 rollicking victory, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green put the pressure on Miami. 

With the Spurs staging an offensive exhibition the likes of which the NBA Finals has never seen before, it was not Tim Duncan or Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili leading the way. It was Leonard and Green. At one point in the second quarter, the pair was outscoring Miami 31-30 by itself. 

.@Spurs in Gm 3: 75.8% FG in 1st half: new #NBAFinals record for a half 41 pts in 1st qtr: most in 1stQ of Finals gm since SFW's 41 in '67

— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) June 11, 2014

Leonard in particular came out with a different look in his eye. Through the first two games of the series, he had scored only 18 points and made just six field goals. By halftime of Game 3, he had matched both of those totals. 

There was very little hesitation on Leonard's part at any point throughout the evening. 

"I think the foul situations the first two games really he overreacted to them and became very cautious, and he doesn't play like that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in his postgame press conference. "He's got to be real active at both ends, and so he figured it out." 

Leonard was aggressive right from the jump whether that meant locking and loading his jumper or putting the ball on the floor or getting into LeBron James' body with pressure defense.

James got off to a hot start, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first quarter, but Leonard held him in check throughout the rest of the game, allowing only eight more points on 4-of-8 from the field while forcing seven turnovers (a personal Finals worst) from the league's best player. 

But it was on the offensive end where Leonard truly shone. His 29 points marked his best total since high school, three better than he ever scored in the NBA or college. He made 10 of 13 shots from the field, the former number marking a career playoff high

Green, meanwhile, shone on defense, even while sprinkling in some of his trademark long-range shooting as well. He eventually finished one shy of a San Antonio playoff record by recording five steals, three of which led to baskets for the Spurs, totaling seven points. 

Green stripped Dwyane Wade (twice), Ray Allen and Norris Cole, and he picked off LeBron like he was Richard Sherman. He played about as perfect a defensive game as a perimeter player could play save for the one time he went flying past Ray Allen as the latter pump-faked himself into an open corner three. 

Green wasn't quite as explosive offensive as Leonard, but he did manage 15 points on only eight field-goal attempts. He came quite close to setting a personal best in two-point field goals made, tallying six.

Known more as an outside sniper, Green put the ball on the floor and nailed two floaters, which may have been more than he made all season. Miami has made a point of running Green off the three-point line throughout the series, and he took advantage in Game 3 by using the Heat's overaggressive closeouts against them. 

The Spurs got positive contributions pretty much across the board, but it was the two young wing players who really led the way. In the 18 minutes Leonard and Green shared the floor, the Spurs shot nearly 70 percent and outscored Miami by 22.1 points per 100 possessions, an absurd number. 

It's rather unlikely they'll shoot a combined 17-of-20 in any of the remaining two to four games of the series, but if they keep up the energy, effort and especially the aggressiveness they showed in Game 3, that will go a long way toward helping the Spurs avenge last year's Finals loss.