MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  Danny Green #4 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts against the Miami Heat during Game Four of the 2014 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2014 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Zooming In: Green’s shooting and defense key vs Rockets

AT&T CENTER – Saturday San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green did something he hadn’t done since last April – make six 3-pointers in a regular season game. With the Spurs looking to bounce back from a Christmas Day loss to the Houston Rockets, Green was one of four Spurs to score over 17 points, as he knocked down 6-of-8 triples for 18 points, in the Spurs’ 18-point win over Houston.

Whether it was shooting in transition for a pull-up three, or just launching 3-pointers with a sliver of daylight, on this night, Green looked like the career 41.0% three point shooter more-so than the current 32.5% outside sniper.

“It felt pretty good to knock some shots in, to see the ball go in for me,” said Green of his shooting performance. “Unluckily for us, everybody else wasn’t hitting any in the beginning, usually it’s the other way around. Everybody else is hitting shots and I’m missing some.”

Coming into Saturday’s contest, Green was shooting just 30.1% from 3-point range through the first three months of the season. While he’s having to learn to play with new players like LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, while also seeing the offense shift from an outside-in, to an inside-out style with Kawhi Leonard now becoming the focal point, Green just hasn’t been able to find his usual 41.0% career 3-point shooting mark through 35 games.

Still, while Green is searching for his shot, his head coach knows he doesn’t have to say anything to him for any sort of motivation or direction.

“I haven’t said a word to him,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich after the game. “He comes in and shoots, he practices – he’s a pro. There’s nothing I can tell him to help. You have to participate in your own recovery.”

This season Green is attempting 4.4 threes per game, which is near his average during the 2014 season, where he attempted 4.7 per night. With Green only knocking down 32.5% of his 3-pointers, his points per game average has also slipped, as he’s averaging 7.3 points per game, his lowest of any season playing in more than 30 games. Despite Green’s struggles in trying to find his shot, he will still get time on the floor because of one of the key areas where he’s an important part in making the Spurs elite – defense.

While Leonard is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Green helps Leonard and the Spurs by also being a versatile defender (capable of guarding positions 1 through 3) on the wing beside Leonard. Saturday, it wasn’t Leonard, who was tasked with the assignment of guarding James Harden, it was Green.

Prior to Saturday’s game, Harden came in averaging 18.2 minutes per first half, attempting 9.3 shots, 4.1 free throws and scoring 12.9 points. Saturday, in 18:26 first half minutes, Harden attempted 7 shots, 2 free throws and he scored 16 points. In the second half, Green played close denial defense on Harden and with the help of his teammates, Harden was limited to just 3 second half shots, 1 free throw attempt and 1 point in 12 minutes. Before Saturday, Harden had been taking 10.1 shots in the second half in 19.3 minutes, shooting 6.3 free throws and making 14.9 points.

“Huge for us, not only because we couldn’t score early in the game, but he actually had a great (defensive) game on James Harden too,” said Manu Ginobili of Green’s night Saturday. “He didn’t foul. (James Harden) still had a great first half, but (Danny Green) made him work for his shots. Danny was outstanding today.”

Saturday was Green’s seventh time in his career where he made 6 threes in a regular season game. Making the six 3-pointers brought his percentage up from 30.1% to 32.5% in one night. While he won’t make 6-of-8 three pointers every night, the Spurs will need his accuracy to continue to rise to at least near his career mark of 41.0%. If Green start knocking down even one or two extra 3-pointers per night, the Spurs’ offense could become even more potent than the third overall ranking it currently holds.

With 47 games remaining and while Green found his rhythm on one Saturday night in January, he thinks it’s just a matter of time before the team as a whole gets everything together.

“It’s only a matter of time,” said Green. “When everybody’s clicking and on the same page, I think we could be a very dangerous team. Hopefully it happens more times than less, with there being times where sometimes we’re not clicking and not making more shots than less, we get that chemistry before the playoffs start.”

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.