AT&T Center – Before Game 3 of the NBA Final between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, Spurs guard Tony Parker delivered a message to his sharp-shooting teammate Gary Neal: Be Ready.
“I told him if they keep trapping me you’re going to have the ball and you’re going to be able to get shots,” Parker informed Neal before the game. “I said we need a big game from you.”
How did Neal respond when the Heat trapped Parker Tuesday? Parker’s response says it all.
“He was unbelievable,” said Parker of Neal afterward. Neal finished the game as the Spurs’ second leading scorer with 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, where he went 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
“After the game he looked at me and said ‘you called it.’ So I was very happy for him,” said Parker of Neal.
Along with Neal, Danny Green himself had a memorable night as he led the Spurs in scoring with 27 points after knocking down 7-of-9 three pointers. The Spurs as a team made 16-of-32 three pointers. Neal and Green accounted for all but three of their 3-point makes.
“Those guys shot incredibly,” added Tim Duncan of Neal and Green after the game. “Gave us the breathing room when we needed it.”
“They found their spots and knocked them out,” continued Duncan. “We moved the ball and guys were taking advantage of the situation. Miami was running all over the place, and those guys were getting some open looks.”
“He played great tonight,” said Green. “We knew he was due for a big game at some point. Gary is a scorer.”
Prior to facing the Heat, Neal was averaging 5.5 points per game in the playoffs and struggling from beyond the arc where he was only attempting 2.6 three pointers per game and making just 26% of them.
Three games into the NBA Finals; Neal is tied with Tim Duncan as the Spurs’ second leading scorer behind Green (18.7 points) with 13.7 pointer game. Neal is attempting six 3-pointers per game where he’s shooting at an accurate rate of 50% from beyond the arc.
With the way the Heat play defense on Parker in trapping and making him give up the ball, the writing on the wall is clearly there for Neal to have a big series.
He answered Parker’s message Tuesday with 24 points, but the question will be whether or not he can continue his consistent shooting from beyond the arc in the remainder of the Finals games.