Danny Green’s shooting display in the 2013 Finals was so prolific that a Finals MVP was within reach had the San Antonio Spurs closed out the title.
Having worked his way up from a mid-second-round pick in 2009 and multiple stints in the D-League, Green earned a full-time starting nod as an elite off-ball 3-point shooter with a 6’10” wingspan that made him a stingy defender.
Green played the role to perfection in his first full season as a starter, ranking seventh in the league in 3-point percentage at 42.9 and taking on the challenge of guarding the perimeter’s elite, even ranking fifth among guards in blocks per game at 0.7.
The Spurs continued their longstanding dominance with a 58-24 record, good for second in the Western Conference. They’d lose just twice on their way to a spot in the NBA Finals and a faceoff with the defending champion Miami Heat.
In a matchup that featured San Antonio’s Big Three against Miami’s trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Danny Green naturally took a backseat and was an afterthought in such a star-studded battle.
Nevertheless, if San Antonio were to emerge victorious, Green’s defense and floor spacing would play a crucial role, even if few would recognize it.
He was a surprise contributor in a Game 1 victory by shooting 4-of-9 from distance and an afterthought in a Game 2 Miami blowout despite leading his team in scoring with 17 points on a perfect 5-of-5 mark from beyond the arc.
For as well as Green had played until this point, Game 3 proved to be the breakout performance, the one that turned a hot start into a legitimate display of long-range brilliance.
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Back in the comfort of the AT&T Center, the Spurs unleashed a flurry of 3-pointers en route to a blowout 113-77 win. They were 16-of-32 from downtown — a then-record — led by Green posting a game-high 27 points on 7-of-9 long-distance shooting.
It was at this point that the general public began to catch wind of the magnitude of Green’s play, having shot 16-of-23 — 69.6 percent! — on 3-pointers to help San Antonio to a 2-1 series lead.
The ball continued to roll from there. Green was “only” 3-of-5 on 3-pointers in a Game 4 loss but bounced back by shooting 6-of-10 in a crucial Game 5 win that punctuated his remarkable shooting display in the record books.
Early in the third quarter, Green put in his 23rd 3-pointer of the series, breaking the mark for most made threes in a Finals previously held by Ray Allen in 2008 — that has since been broken by Stephen Curry in 2016.
With the Spurs just one win away from the championship, Green’s hype train had picked up incredible speed.
He wasn’t just being praised for his efforts in helping San Antonio to a 3-2 series lead. A quick internet search shows multiple articles pining for a Finals MVP trophy for Green if the Spurs could close out the series, an argument that wasn’t hard to make.
Through those first five games, Green’s record-breaking 3-point display was accompanied by 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. Among his teammates, those numbers ranked first, third and second, respectively.
The idea that a player the caliber of Danny Green could rise above three future Hall of Famers — technically four including Kawhi Leonard — to claim Finals MVP was quite the story. Before a coronation could commence, San Antonio still had one game to win with Games 6 and 7 down in Miami. An achievable task, yes, but one that wouldn’t come easy against a desperate Heat team.
The Heat managed to claim the next two games and back-to-back titles thanks to the heroics of Ray Allen and the greatness of LeBron James. The championship was also won through the immense job of shutting down the player who gave them perhaps the most problems.
Over the final two games of the series, Green was a combined 2-for-11 from the 3-point line and 2-for-19 overall for just nine total points. Miami made a concerted effort to remain locked onto Green at all times and expose the absence of any off-the-dribble abilities by frantically running him off the 3-point line.
Had the Spurs closed out Game 6, a one-game blip wouldn’t have likely been enough to take the Finals MVP trophy from the body of work Green had presented over the previous five outings.
But after Duncan averaged 27.0 points and 14.5 rebounds over the last two games, a victory in Game 7 might have presented a narrative — the face of the franchise and aging legend adding one last chapter to his legacy, etc. — too strong for back-to-back duds to overcome.
Role players have had their hand in nearly every NBA championship. From Robert Horry to Steve Kerr to Ray Allen, their impact is always needed, but never have they been felt like Green’s efforts in 2013.
In a history book dominated by superstars, what an image it would be to see the name of a former D-League regular who had been cut multiple times run alongside greats like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.
Debating Danny Green’s MVP odds seems trivial given the end result of that series, but it’s an interesting hypothetical that might have been an Allen miracle from happening with as unique a spot in NBA history as there is waiting on the other side.