SAN ANTONIO - Just like many who pick up a basketball at a tender young age and dream of playing in the NBA one day, Danny Green's eyes were glued to the television screen when some of the league's biggest stars went to the podium, offering their postgame thoughts on the Finals.
So imagine the feeling that had to be engulfing the North Babylon product Tuesday night.
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"I watched hundreds of them," Green said. "I was a big basketball fan since I was little. My father put the ball in my hand. I stayed up late . . . I never thought I would be up here talking to you guys now."
That's what happens when he puts forth the kind of effort he did in Game 3, helping the Spurs regain control of the Finals. Green tossed in a game-high 27 points, knocking down 7 of 9 three-pointers, and Gary Neal netted a playoff career-high 24 points as the Spurs pounded the Heat, 113-77, at AT&T Center.
San Antonio leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is here Thursday night.
Whether Tony Parker plays in that one remains to be seen. The Spurs' point guard suffered a right hamstring injury in the third quarter and is expected to have an MRI on Wednesday to gauge the severity. He checked out with 5:07 left and headed to the locker room, returning to the bench late in the quarter. He was on the floor at the outset of the fourth quarter, but was taken out after a couple of minutes with the Spurs leading big.
"We'll see," Parker said. "I felt something in my hamstring, so I don't know. I have no idea. Hopefully, it's nothing big and it's just cramping or got tight on me. It's just a weird feeling."
The Spurs never trailed and led by as many as 37 points. They made an NBA Finals-record 16 threes and Neal was on the mark all game, particularly in the first half. He led all scorers with 14 points in the first half, nailing 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. This from a guy who had a combined 17 points in the first two games of the series.
LeBron James was a non-factor, scoring just 15 points and shooting 7-for-21. He missed 11 of his first 14 shots and had only four points at the half, marking just the 38th time in 899 career games that he scored four or fewer at the half.
"I have to do better," James said. "If I'm better, we're better. I'm putting everything on my chest and my shoulders and I have to do better. My teammates are doing a great job and I'm not doing my part."
James woke up at the end of the third, nailing three straight shots on consecutive possessions, shaving San Antonio's 21-point bulge to 78-63 heading into the fourth.
But San Antonio rattled off a 13-0 run, fueled mostly by Neal and Green. Neal swished a pair of threes and also had a Curly Neal-like pass, delivering a no-looker to Kawhi Leonard for a nasty dunk. Green also canned a three-pointer off a Neal assist, handing the Spurs a 91-63 advantage with 9:39 remaining.
"You don't expect it to go the way it did," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "But we're loving our home court after getting blown out, to have that kind of effort and energy from the building, and to feed off of that and our team to respond the right way. We get our butts handed to us last game and they played really well.
"We come back here and just put together a great game all around."