D-listers crash party in NBA finals
The finals opened as such a juicy matchup of A-list stars.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the Heat against Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for the old guard Spurs. Big Three v Big Three. Winners take all.
Once the series actually started, a group of D-listers crashed the party.
Gary Neal and Danny Green combined for 51 points and 13 three-pointers in San Antonio's game three victory over Miami, carrying the Spurs to a 2-1 lead in a series that has been controlled by no-names, not big names.
"We don't expect a performance like this from those kind of guys, but they were great," Duncan said. "They did it. They found their spots and knocked them out."
Been that way all series. On both sides.
Green, who was twice cut by San Antonio and spent a summer in Slovenia, may be the early leader for finals MVP. He also hit four big three-pointers in the Spurs' game one victory in Miami and was a perfect 6-for-6 from long range in game two, outshining the four-time MVP James every step of the way. "Never thought in a million years that would happen," Green said.
Neal had to go overseas as well and even delayed his honeymoon just to get a chance to play on the Spurs' summer league team a few Julys ago. His big three-pointers at the end of the first half and the start of the fourth quarter buried the Heat.
Those two have teamed with Kawhi Leonard - a lottery pick so soft-spoken that teammates started to wonder if he ever talked at all - to give the Spurs a "Little Three" that has stepped up and taken over.
Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have been the identity of the Spurs for years, teaming for three championships in five years in the middle of the last decade. But they combined to shoot 10-for-33 in their game two thumping in Miami. In game three, Duncan had a solid 12 points and 14 rebounds, but Ginobili had just seven points and a bad hamstring limited Parker to six.
Leonard added 14 points, 12 rebounds and four steals to pick up the slack.
"It's a dream come true," Neal said. "Me and Danny both went through a lot of stuff together. We were guys that showed up two hours before practice started to get shots up and to prove to the coaching staff that we belong, and we're going to do whatever we need to get minutes."
It's been the same way for the Heat, who expect so much from James, Wade and Bosh. All three have posted numbers far below their career averages in these finals
"If you look at every series in the past, the role players are going to have big series, even if the best players out there, the superstars and everything, are really getting their regular numbers," Bosh said. "You can easily have role players that are doing what they're supposed to do."
In their place, it's been Mario Chalmers, who scored 19 points in game two and was the instigator in a game-clinching 30-5 run that evened the series.
It's also been Mike Miller, a banged-up journeyman who was barely playing when the finals began. He is 9-for-10 on three-pointers this series, and was the only Heat player who showed up for game three with 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting from three-point range.
For whatever reason, the stars just haven't been playing like stars in these finals. "It's a difficult feel to get with the rhythm of this series," Bosh said. "It's been a very odd series so far. I'm sure it's going to continue to be just as crazy as the last six days have been."