“Just because [Duncan’s] a little older doesn’t mean he’s lost his competitiveness or his professional will to compete,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s not going to stop.”
The Spurs didn’t necessarily need to have brilliant performances from Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — the three holdovers from the past three championship teams — because they got more than enough support from the likes of Green, Gary Neal and Leonard, a trio making their NBA Finals debut.
Green led all scorers with 27 points, Neal had 24 and Leonard had 14 points and 12 rebounds while continuing to harass LeBron James into another subpar performance.
The team that has won Game 3 with the series tied 1-1 has gone on to win the championship 11 of the past 12 times. The only team to lose in that scenario was the Heat, which lost the final three games against the Dallas Mavericks two years ago.
The Spurs haven’t lost consecutive games with Duncan, Parker and Ginobili in the lineup since mid-December. After an embarrassing 19-point loss in Miami two nights ago, San Antonio was able to keep that streak together despite getting a combined 25 points from its more accomplished trio.
“Huge win for us. It was just an all-around great team effort,” Duncan said. “We get our butts handed to us last game, and they played really well, and we came back here and change it up and just put together a great game all around.”
But Parker’s availability going forward is in doubt after the all-star point guard suffered a hamstring injury in the second half that forced him to leave the game momentarily. Parker revealed afterward he will have an MRI exam Wednesday.
“Hopefully it just got tight, and hopefully I will be fine,” Parker said.
The Spurs were able to withstand his absence because Miami’s all-star trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh never appeared to step off the plane from Miami.
“We got our butt whipped,” Wade said. “We got our butt kicked pretty good.”
James had four points at halftime for the second game in a row, with the long arms of Leonard and the pesky aggressiveness of Green forcing him to play out of rhythm. Other than an eight-point burst late in the third quarter, James appeared flustered and unable to find his desired spots to score. He settled for long jumpers and was tentative as he attacked the basket, which contributed to him finishing with just 15 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
“I think we’ve done a great job helping each other, team defense,” Green said of the Spurs’ scheme against James. “We know what kind of player LeBron is. We know he’s not at his best right now. But LeBron is not just us stopping him. He’s kind of stopped himself out there, and we’re getting a little lucky.”