Two games into the NBA Finals, it has become clear the Lakers are committed to the three-point shot whether or not they are going down. They shot a Finals record 47 three-point attempts, and even though they made only 16, they took a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Heat Friday night.
What that means is that, even though North Babylon’s Danny Green has been fighting an injury and struggling to find his rhythm from deep, the Lakers will keep going to him and hope he catches fire in Game 3 Sunday night. Green was 3-of-8 from three and scored 11 points in Game 1 but tailed off badly in Game 2 when he went 1-of-8 for just three points.
After Game 1, teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said, "We just encourage him every game to keep shooting. We know that ‘Playoff Danny’ is going to come out and knock down shots."
Before Game 2, Green acknowledged his shooting troubles in the NBA "bubble" at Disney World in Orlando. In seven regular season games before the playoffs, he connected at only a 25.0 % rate and has improved marginally to 34.4% in 17 playoff games, numbers that are far below his 40% career three-point accuracy.
"I’m far from where I know I want to be or where I should be," Green said prior to Game 2. "But I just try to do my job to the best of my ability. That starts at the defensive end of the floor and then making the game easier for the guys around me. But I know we’ll always have a chance because we have LeBron (James) and (Anthony Davis). They make the game easier for us regardless of how bad we’re shooting."
That certainly was true in Game 2 when James had 33 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists while Davis totaled 32 points and 14 rebounds. Still, it would help if Green gets hot against Miami’s zone defense. Coach Frank Vogel replaced him briefly in Game 2 with J.R. Smith because he was looking for a spark from deep.
"Danny was battling a hip injury," Vogel said. "He and KCP were playing well, but we were struggling a little bit from the perimeter. So, I was looking to see if we could buy a few minutes with J.R. because of Danny’s injuries."
Everyone knows what Green can do when he’s healthy. If the Lakers win the title, James and Green will become the third and fourth players in NBA history to win titles with three different franchises, including the Heat, Cavaliers and Lakers for James and the Spurs, Raptors and Lakers for Green. The other two are Robert Horry (Rockets, Lakers, Spurs) and John Salley (Pistons, Bulls, Lakers).
Asked about the significance of that accomplishment, Green laughed and said, "It’s being lucky. The accomplishment of winning a title is what I think about more than anything. I’m just fortunate to be at this stage, whether it’s with the same team or different teams, and to be able to hold up the trophy more than once. I’m extremely blessed, extremely fortunate and very lucky."
Of course, Green played a big role in the Raptors’ surprising run to the 2019 title. He hit a career-high 45.5% from three-point range and averaged 10.3 points that season. After signing with the Lakers as a free agent, his regular-season numbers dipped to 36.7% from three and 8.0 points, but they have been a much better defensive team with Green on the floor.
As a rookie in 2009-10, Green played sparingly with James, but he leaped at the opportunity to play a meaningful role alongside such great players as James and Davis.
"It’s been amazing, man," Green said. "LeBron’s welcomed me since Day 1. This is where I wanted to be, and I got everything I expected and more. I’m extremely happy about where I landed and being able to make it happen…and to be here in this position with this opportunity. I still have a ways to go in doing my job and fulfilling what I promised them or what they expect of me, but hopefully, we can make that happen and get that done.
"I’ve been LeBron’s teammate before when I was a rookie. Now, to be able to play with him and actually help and actually have him look at me as a player who can change the game or help him succeed and build his legacy, it’s amazing and very humbling."
Green thanked his Lakers teammates for keeping their faith in him. "They just told me to keep firing, they kept believing in me, they kept expecting it to happen," Green said. "They feel like, ‘Oh, you’re going to hit five, you’re going to hit six.’ They didn’t put any pressure on me. They just encouraged me to stay positive…Hopefully, I can continue to make them proud and hold up my end of the bargain and do my job."
We just encourage him every game to keep shooting. We know that ‘Playoff Danny’ is going to come out and knock down shots.” — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope