Spurs - Heat Game 4 preview: Spurs rolling deep

Spurs - Heat Game 4 preview: Spurs rolling deep
June 13, 2013, 11:00 am
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SAN ANTONIO — As the media shuffled around from one corner of the AT&T Center to another, there were mini-mobs clinging to every word uttered by the San Antonio Spurs' Big Three - that is, the Spurs' other Big Three - of Danny Green, Kahwi Leonard and Gary Neal.

If you thought they would comprise the Big Three who would dominate this series after the first three games, well you're probably holding a winning lottery ticket in your wallet as well.

Because the likelihood of anyone believing that these three would play such a pivotal role in this series, is slim to non-existent.

But here are the Spurs, ahead 2-1 in The Finals over Miami, with the Green-Leonard-Neal trifecta putting in some major work to make it happen.

Green has been the series' leading scorer with an 18.7 points per game average - two points better than James, a former teammate in Cleveland.

While Green has had his share of big dreams as an NBA player, outscoring James in the NBA Finals?

That's not one of them.

"No, never thought in a million years that would happen," Green said.

Leonard is pulling down 12 boards per game which is also tops in this series among all players. He's also chipping in 11 points, two steals and a slew of defensive stops against James every game.

Even though he has been instrumental in slowing down the game's best player, Leonard understands he's just part of the puzzle.

"I'm a role player," Leonard said, adding, "I'm not getting any plays called for me out on the floor. I'm not getting no isos (isolation plays). I'm a role player; I'm playing off of Tim (Duncan), Tony (Parker) and Manu (Ginobili), the players that do get isos."

And then there's Neal who not that long ago was out of the rotation. Now he's back to seeing steady minutes while dropping his share of three-point bombs which includes nailing six 3s on the way towards a playoff career-high 24 points in San Antonio's 113-77 win on Tuesday.

"As a professional, it's your job to stay ready," Neal said. "You never know when your number is going to be called. You don't know anything. So you have to come into the gym and continue to get your reps up and continue to prepare yourself for whatever assignment the coach decides to play you in. The last three games in The Finals, I've been a steady rotation guy. I'm just thankful that I was able to stay mentally and physically ready for this opportunity that I could take advantage of it."

Having an opportunity to produce at such a high level does wonders both for the Spurs and for the confidence of players who for the most part, have been and will continue to be role players.

And it will continue to keep them in the media limelight, something none of them seem all that eager to embrace - a cue they probably took from their fearless leader, Tim Duncan.

"Honestly, I don't read anything," Duncan said. "I don't watch SportsCenter. I don't watch sports. I don't watch anything. I don't know what's said and I don't really care. I show up to play the games. We're here at this point and that's all that matters."

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  LeBron James has averaged 18 shots per game in this series, but only 3.3 in the first quarter. Considering he's shooting less than 40 percent in the series, don't be surprised if James looks for his offense early and often which would involve getting a lot more shots in the first quarter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Tim Duncan vs Udonis Haslem: As much grief as James has received for his 38.9 percent shooting in The Finals, Duncan has actually been even worse (37.2 percent) from the field. A big part of that has been Haslem whose defense against Duncan has been exceptional.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Gary Neal had 17 points in Games 1 and 2 combined, but dropped 24 once the Spurs returned home for Game 3. The Spurs don't necessarily need another career night from Neal, but they do need him to continue being a difference-maker off the bench.

STAT TO TRACK: The Heat average more than 24 free throw attempts per game in the playoffs, but shot just 10 on Tuesday night. Most noteworthy was James, who leads all players in the postseason in free throw attempts (142) did not take a single free throw attempt in Game 3. That's going to change - dramatically - in Game 4 tonight.