“Make some more shots,” he said.
Green certainly did that in San Antonio’s 121-103 drubbing of the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. Green knocked down 6 of 8 from 3-point range to score 18 points while adding three assists, three steals and a blocked shot. As an added bonus, Green locked down Houston guard James Harden, limiting him to 17 points as San Antonio improved to 20-0 at home.
“Blessed me with one good game,” Green said. “Let’s not get too excited too early. We still have a lot more to go. Hopefully, it’s a buildup to get a rhythm, not just for me, for everybody.”
In his previous five outings, Green connected on just 5-of-14 from 3-point range while working through a shooting slump that has lasted the majority of the season. Green entered the season as a 41.6 percent 3-point shooter, and his career field goal percentage sat at 43.6 percent. Both numbers dipped substantially over San Antonio’s 34 games to 35.9 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from long range.
Despite those struggles, nobody doubted Green would shake the slump. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich never once spoke to Green about his struggles this season.
“I haven’t said a word to him,” Popovich said. “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.”
As Tim Duncan and Tony Parker combined to miss all five of their first-quarter shots, Green burned Houston by hitting 4-of-5 from long range for 12 points. Green's four 3-pointers to start the game matched his career high for 3s in any quarter.
Green’s next two 3-pointers came in the second and third quarters. Green’s 24-foot jumper off an assist from Kawhi Leonard gave San Antonio a 70-65 lead with 7:36 remaining in the third.
“Danny was outstanding today. For us, he’s huge. He’s been [huge] the last three years,” Manu Ginobili said. “We need him to make those shots, and it was good to see him get his rhythm back. Hopefully, this helps to help him get out of his shooting slump. But even with all that, he’s very important for us because of his defense, his energy defensive-wise. He’s been doing a great job anyway, but we need him to make shots. Every time you’ve got a teammate not making shots or not feeling that great or that good about himself, you want him to do good, and you’re gonna help. You’re gonna give him open shots, open looks. So when he made four out of five, I think it was, it was a great lift for the whole team.”
As a result, when Green walked off the court in the first quarter, the entire bench congratulated the guard.
“It felt pretty good to knock some shots down. To see the ball go in for me. Unluckily for us, everybody else wasn’t hitting in the beginning,” Green said. “It’s usually the other way around: everybody else is hitting shots and I’m missing. Every time, even when I’m missing shots, they’re always there encouraging me. It’s a great feeling. When I’m making shots, it’s better of course. It’s exciting because they haven’t seen me do it in a while.”
Considered one of the league’s premier three-and-D players, Green signed a four-year, $45 million contract in July to return to the Spurs. Despite Green’s shot not falling the way it has in the past, he, along with Leonard (22 points), has consistently been one of San Antonio’s top defenders.
“Danny did a great job on [Harden] the last time we played them on Christmas,” Leonard said. “Tonight, he got the matchup again. He did a great job; made things uncomfortable for him. And then him making 3-point shots on the other end is just a bonus [along with] being able to play good defense and score.”