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NBA Playoffs Playbook: How one Danny Green three tells you everything you need to know about the Spurs

Note:  This post has been updated to correct a mistake in which Patty Mills was identified as Tony Parker.

The Spurs aren’t supposed to still be doing this, but every year we doubt them, and they come back stronger. We thought they were done a few years ago when they were upset by Memphis. But what have they done since then? Oh, nothing, just three straight trips to the Western Conference Finals.

Last night they dismantled the Thunder, putting a chokehold on the series. And in typical Spurs fashion, they got a huge contribution from someone other than their big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. This time it was Danny Green, who knocked down seven threes to finish with 21 points.

Green is just another prime example of the Spurs taking an unheralded player, inserting him into their system, and producing results. Green was a late second round pick who couldn’t get off the bench in Cleveland his first year. Now, just a few years later, he’s a starter on a Spurs team about to go to their second straight finals. Because of the stability that Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan bring to the franchise, they have been able to create a system that allows players like Green to flourish.

Green has one elite skill—he can shoot the lights out. He’s shooting 42 percent from behind the arc for his career, and an astounding 51 percent in these playoffs. Duncan, along with Parker and Ginobili, are so good, and Popovich so stable in his leadership that they can plug Green in and accentuate his shooting ability while hiding flaws in his game.

Last night Green hit seven threes, but there was one in particular that stands out as a microcosm of the Spurs success throughout the years. And just like the Spurs themselves, it was easy to overlook.

We’ll pick up the play as Boris Diaw secures a loose ball. Green, meanwhile, is at the free throw line, while Patty Mills is on the wing, waiting for an outlet pass.

(Picture caption should read Patty Mills instead of Tony Parker)

Seeing that Diaw has secured the ball, Green immediately turns and begins sprinting down the court for a possible spot up three. Green is off and running before Mills has even received the outlet from Diaw, because Green has his role, and that’s to get open for three-pointers. Plus, Green has complete faith that Mills is going to push it hard down the court to attract the defense and then kick it out to him, as long as he has done his job.

(Picture caption should read Patty Mills instead of Tony Parker.)

(Skip ahead to the 30 second mark to see the play.)

And there it is. Boom goes the dynamite. Green gets himself into position, Mills pushes the ball up the court and before the Thunder even know what’s going on, Green is splashing a three on them.

Green knew his role and did his job, and it lead to exactly what the Spurs wanted. And that’s why this one simple play shows you everything San Antonio is about. They have great players, yes, but everyone on their team—from stars to scrubs—knows what to do and when to do it at all times. It’s all part of the system, and that system leads to a lot of success down in Texas.

Jack Maloney