SAN ANTONIO – So much for all the Big Three star power in these NBA Finals. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh?
All of them had to make room for the San Antonio Spurs' Dynamic Duo: Danny Green and Gary Neal.
With Green scoring 27 points and Neal adding 24, the Spurs blitzed the Miami Heat 113-77 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the Finals.
The Spurs buried the Heat with a staggering Finals-record 16 3-pointers.The previous record was 14.
"We got what we deserved," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in a clear reference to his team's defense, or lack of one.
Game 3 was a complete reverse from Game 2. After the Heat erupted late in the third quarter and well into the fourth to rout the Spurs on Sunday, San Antonio responded with its own barrage. Leading the way? Neal, Green, Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph.
Neal, an undrafted role player who played overseas and has bounced in and out of the Spurs' rotation, made 6 of 10 3-pointers. Green, who had twice been cut by the Spurs before finally sticking last season, made 7 of 9 threes.
"Those guys stepping up on this stage in this game is huge for us," said Duncan, who had 12 points and 14 rebounds. "We talked about it before the series started, how we're going to have to have guys step up and guys play well in certain games. And we don't expect a performance like this from those kind of guys, but they were great."
When Parker had to leave in the second half with a hamstring injury, the Spurs didn't slow. Joseph, the Spurs' backup point guard, helped keep the charge going as San Antonio won by 36 points. Green has now made 17 of 24 3-pointers (70.8 percent) in the first three games of the Finals.
"It's been a while since I shot the ball like that," Green said. "A couple games in the season, I shot it pretty well, but tonight it was a totally different level of feeling – comfort level on the perimeter."
James wasn't much of a factor offensively for the Heat. He missed 11 of his first 13 shots and finished the game 7 for 21 with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He also didn't have a single free-throw attempt for the first time this season.
"[It] is not just us stopping him," Green said. "He's kind of stopped himself out there and we're getting a little lucky."
The big concern for the Spurs is whether they will have their All-Star point guard for Thursday's Game 4. Parker is scheduled to have an MRI on Wednesday. He returned to the bench, but didn't play after exiting the game with 10:33 left in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs are known for having one of the more passionate NBA crowds in a city whose mood can rise and fall with the fortune of its only major pro franchise. But with traffic snarled because of rain and high school graduations – including one next door to AT&T Center – Duncan and Parker, along with some of the crowd, were late arriving. Duncan and Parker did make it to the arena in time to make the pregame layup line, and, for Duncan, at least, that seemed to be enough to give him his rhythm.
After missing 10 of 13 shots in Game 2, Duncan scored six points in the opening quarter of Game 3. The Spurs, as a team, seemed to settle into a nice rhythm, shooting 61.4 percent in the first quarter. They continued to control most of the second quarter until a late 14-4 run by the Heat tied the game at 44 with 37.8 seconds left before halftime.
The Spurs then answered with a couple of shots that stole back some momentum and ultimately changed the course of the game. Parker buried a 3-pointer with 26.9 seconds left. Neal followed by coolly draining a 3-pointer in transition as the first-half buzzer sounded.
The 3-pointer was one of four for Neal – and seven for the Spurs – in the half. James totaled four points in the first two quarters on 2-for-8 shooting.
As James stayed cold when the second half began, the Spurs went on a 19-8 run capped by a Leonard 3-pointer to hike the Spurs' lead to 17. James finally awoke offensively late in the quarter, scoring nine straight points to pull the Heat within 76-63 with 6.9 seconds remaining. But just when it looked like James and Miami were gaining some momentum, Ginobili found teammate Tiago Splitter for a lay-up with .1 seconds left.
Neal nailed a 3-pointer 25 seconds into the fourth quarter. Thirty seconds later, Neal pulled up quick for another 3-pointer to push the Spurs' lead to 21. The rout was on. A put-back by Green made it 23. One second later, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra bolted onto the floor and called timeout. All told, the Spurs scored the first 14 points of the final quarter.
Neither James, nor anyone else on the Heat, could provide a sustained response to the barrage.
"I have to do better," James said. "If I'm better, we're better, and I have to be better. I'm putting everything on my chest and on my shoulders, and I have to be better."
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