By Frank Pingue
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Danny Green was twice cut by the San Antonio Spurs and wondered if he had a future in the NBA, but those doubts were quickly forgotten on Tuesday with a career performance that put his team two wins away from lifting the championship.
The 25-year-old shooting guard scored a game-high 27 points that gave San Antonio a 2-1 series lead over the Miami Heat in the best-of-seven Finals series, a performance that went beyond Green's wildest dreams.
"No, I never thought that. Luckily I've been open. I hit some shots. Some dropped for me," Green, who drained seven of the Spurs' Finals-record 16 three-pointers, told reporters.
"My team mates done a good job of finding me and encouraging me to shoot every time when I'm open."
To say it has been a long and winding road back for Green would be an understatement.
Green was drafted 46th overall by the Cavaliers in 2009 and spent most of his rookie season in the NBA's Development League.
Cleveland cut Green less than a year after drafting him.
The Spurs picked him up shortly after but was waived six days later, triggering another D-League stint. Four months later Green rejoined the Spurs, only to be waived again.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said Green had confidence issues in his early days but that has since been corrected after he and the shooting guard's former college coach approached him.
"Believing that he belonged. Not getting down if things didn't go well, to continue to push and to work," Popovich said when asked what advice they gave Green. "And to Danny's credit, he's done that. He's a pretty confident young man right now."
After the game, Green's performance in front of a delirious home crowd was drawing accolades from all of his team mates, most notably four-time NBA champion and two-time most valuable player Tim Duncan.
"It's an unbelievable story," the Spurs forward said. "Danny is with us a couple of times, gets cut, sticks with it, and Pop (Popovich) stayed on him hard. He has developed into a great one for us."
For Green, the performance was one point shy of his all-time career-high set earlier this year, but it could not have come on a bigger stage.
"It's been a while since I shot the ball like that. A couple of games in the season I shot it pretty well. But tonight it was a totally different level of feeling ‑ comfort level on the perimeter," said Green.
"I just kept running the floor, trying to get open. When I saw daylight, I would just let it fly."
(Editing by John O'Brien)