Simply put, Danny Green was a shell of his regular season self in the playoffs.
After taking advantage of increased playing time to show remarkable development during the regular season, Green saw his numbers and minutes freefall during the Western Conference finals. The North Babylon native had averaged 23.1 minutes and shot 43.6 percent from three in the regular season, and didn't let up in the first eight games of the playoffs -- all San Antonio wins -- shooting 45.7 percent from three in 25 minutes per game.
But after hitting just 4 of his first 21 attempts from three in the first four games of the West finals against the Thunder, Gregg Popovich moved Green, who wasn't contributing much on the defensive end either, to the end of the bench. He saw less than four minutes of action in each of the next two games, and missed both of his three-point attempts.
Green had been instrumental to the Spurs' 20-game winning streak, his solid shooting from the wing spreading out opposing defenses, and allowing Popovich to use Manu Ginobili as a sparkplug off the bench. With Green ice cold from downtown, though, Popovich was forced to make a mid-series adjustment: move Ginobili to the starting lineup, and shorten up the rotation.
With the Spurs' greatest asset, depth, now compromised, the door was wide open for Oklahoma City to close out the series. That's exactly what Kevin Durant and company did, too: the Thunder won the final two games of the series with Green's time limited, finishing off a four-game run that sent San Antonio home, and lifted OKC to the NBA Finals. The San Antonio collapse was so bad, in fact, that it was the first time in NBA history that a team followed up a 20-game winning streak with a four-game losing streak.
Green took the defeat hard, too, blaming his poor shooting for the Spurs' surprising exit on Twitter:
If....only if....@DGreen_14 wuda hit a shot, mighta been a diff series...suppose to b a shooter n doesn't show up on the big stage smh— Danny Green (@DGreen_14) June 7, 2012
Long-term, there shouldn't be much to worry about with Green's shot. Ignore the fact that Green hit just 32 percent of his three-point attempts entering the season; he hadn't yet discovered the three-ball as an offensive weapon, and hadn't yet spent a full season working with San Antonio development coach Chad Forcier.
More likely, the reasoning behind his sudden cold streak may have been a combination of the length of the season's schedule -- Green played just 28 combined NBA games the last two seasons, and 80 this year -- and a lack of experience.
What Green will have to work on, and where opposing defenses will continue to make adjustments, is his shot off the dribble. While Green is reliable as a spot-up shooter, he's unreliable as a creator. If the 24-year-old wants to start in the NBA, he'll need to expand his offensive game.
Green will be a restricted free agent this offseason.