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Basketball Rising to Game 3 challenge, Raptors’ Green looks to build on momentum

Khris Middleton (22) of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against Danny Green (14) of the Toronto Raptors during game three of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 19, 2019 in Toronto.

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Danny Green says he’s not obsessing about the shots he has missed in the playoffs.

The Toronto Raptors’ three-point specialist doesn’t feel as though something is wrong with his shot, nor is he scrutinizing his mechanics in his mind every time he launches a basketball.

But he gets why people might be asking. Green is 4-of-20 from the field through the first three games of the Eastern Conference final, 4-of-14 from beyond the three-point line. The Raps’ starting shooting guard was 45.5 per cent from three-point range in the regular season, but just 35.1 per cent since the calendar flipped to the playoffs.

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Green knocked down three-point daggers for the Raps all season. Now Toronto needs that player, who has played in two NBA final series, to help the team toward its first.

Easygoing and stoic as Green may be, the veteran’s scoring woes were glaring in Toronto’s white-knuckled Game 3 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. Green contributed just three points on 1-of-9 shooting as the Raps once again relied heavily on superstar Kawhi Leonard for points while Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell fouled out in a game that stretched into double overtime.

Yet Green’s single bucket on Sunday speaks volumes about his team’s prevailing confidence in him.

Green had missed all eight of his field-goal attempts when Raptors coach Nick Nurse turned to him in the first overtime period. The game was tied 96-96, and the team was in danger of falling into a 3-0 series hole to the No. 1-seeded Bucks.

“We put him back in and I said to him, ‘You’ve got to hit one here for us man’, and he goes ‘I will,’ ” Nurse said. “So we drew one up for him and he knocked it down.”

Green admitted he was surprised that Nurse called on him to shoot at that moment, but he rose to the challenge and hopes that shot leads to more big makes in Game 4 on Tuesday.

“I told Nick to stick with me. I had one in the chamber for him at some point,” Green said. “He called my number. For a coach to do that, to have the confidence in me, to be 0-for-8 at the time and hit the next one, or call it for me in [overtime] … It felt good.”

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Green said the evenings missed shots didn’t cloud his mind as he came around the screen and lined up for the shot. He only thought to himself “the next one is going in.”

Green insisted nothing feels off about his shot mechanics at the moment. Sometimes a shooter just misses.

“There are no concerns right now,” said Green, adding that some of his shots in Game 3 were simply rushed or taken off-balance. “You think Steph [Curry] thinks about every piece of his shot when he misses a couple? I don’t think so.”

Nurse echoed that, saying the staff check players’ shooting mechanics regularly – details such as how the ball is coming off the hand and if a shooter’s feet are squared up.

“We do that after each and every game, just to see if anything sticks out. And nothing’s really stuck out for us with him,” Nurse said.

Green was the only starter with a negative plus-minus for Toronto on Sunday. Yet he still played 34 minutes and had an impact. In addition to his defensive efforts on Sunday, he added two steals, a blocked shot and six rebounds. He said he can help his teammates avoid some of the foul trouble they experienced in Game 3 by being more physical himself and taking some of their fouls.

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“I was more encouraged with him, after watching the film, I thought he ran the floor a little harder [Sunday] night, I thought he cut more decisively on offence rather than just kind of sitting in the corner and hoping something came to him,” Nurse said.

“We’re going to try to continue to stress him moving a little bit harder and a little swifter, and maybe that’ll shake him free. He’s a really, really good proven playoff shooter. And he’s got a chance I think to impact the series still.”

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