SAN ANTONIO — He was the leading scorer of the NBA Finals entering Game 4 Thursday night. Hard to believe Danny Green was a sideshow during his brief time as LeBron James’s teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Green played 20 games with the 2009-10 Cavaliers, a little-used reserve and sideline dancing act as Cleveland cruised to the Central Division title and 61 victories. Green was waived after the season —
Through the first three games of this series, Green scored 56 points, 6 more than James — with 12-for-14 3-point shooting in Games 2 and 3.
James went off for 33 points in Miami’s 109-93 victory Thursday, double his series average entering the game. Green finished with 10 points, making 3 of 5 3-point attempts.
Green has turned into a staunch defender and pinpoint 3-point shooter, light years from the player who was a late second-round pick and played his rookie season with little confidence.
Green worked feverishly on his game, improving his outside shooting. He also used his size and athleticism to match up well defensively against shooting guards. The result has been stunning, with Green emerging as a primary offensive weapon for the Spurs.
“You just play and not think about much, it’s hard to explain in words,” Green said about being in a shooting zone. “Hitting shots when you’re losing, it’s not as easy to have fun.”
Humbled by his experiences, Green has made sure not to take his star turn for granted. He was a basketball vagabond, a young player just trying to prove to a coach he had an upside. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich cut Green twice but also sent him away with a plan of how to improve, and he kept coming back better.
“I had many doubts; I didn’t know where [my career] was going,” Green said. “Losing confidence was something I dealt with but I had a great support system with my family and they did a good job of keeping me confident to attack this goal. [Game 3] was very surreal, kind of like a dream. I still think it’s a dream but right now I can’t think about it. The last game is the last game.”
As a rookie, Green emulated James, who won his second of four MVP awards that season.
“When we were in Cleveland, that was my guy,” Green said. “I tried to follow everything he did. He was the best player in the league at the time, like he is now. I just tried to be a sponge. We got along great. That was a long time ago. He’s a totally different player now. You’ve got to respect what he has done.”
Finding a match
Inserted into Miami’s starting lineup, Mike Miller did not score in 21 minutes. But with Miller replacing Udonis Haslem the Heat became smaller and that forced San Antonio center Tiago Splitter to defend Dwyane Wade because Popovich opted to use Green against Miller.
Popovich quickly replaced Splitter with Boris Diaw to counter Erik Spoelstra’s lineup.
Spoelstra said the changes were “out of necessity.”
“There’s nobody else. You look around, and that’s it. So all of our guys need to be big,” he said.
There were no changes to the Spurs’ starting lineup. All-Star guard Tony Parker missed most of the second half of Game 3 with a strained right hamstring, but he played 31 minutes Thursday.
Parker (15 points, nine assists) said he became fatigued in the second half — he did not score in 13 minutes — but came out of the game with no further discomfort.
“I’m just happy I didn’t make it worse,” he said. “That was the goal, to not try to get hurt because Pop was not really happy [with me playing injured].”
Deck collapses at bar
A packed outdoor deck behind a Miami-area sports bar collapsed during the game Thursday night, sending dozens of patrons into the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay. Three people were critically injured.
Lt. Ignatius Carroll of Miami Fire-Rescue said late Thursday that 100 people fell into the water. He said rescuers pulled patrons from the bay, and that divers were searching waters underneath the collapsed deck as helicopters shined spotlights onto the area.
WSVN-TV reports that 24 people were injured.