SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Michael Finley decided he had to calm down and stop putting so much heat on himself.
Then the shots started falling.
"Every game at the start of the season I wanted to play the perfect game," Finley said. "Make every shot, be the perfect player. When you do that you make a lot of mistakes and you put a lot of pressure on yourself.
"Coach told me to 'Just go out there and play. Let the game come to you. Stop putting so much added pressure on yourself,'" Finley said. "And I've been doing that as of late, and it seemed to work."
It certainly worked Wednesday night, when Finley hit a franchise playoff-record eight 3-pointers in Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets to help San Antonio advance. He finished with 26 points and was 8-for-9 from beyond the arc.
The 12-year NBA veteran said he had reason to press early on in the season. They'd lost to Dallas, where Finley spent nearly nine full seasons, last year in the Western Conference semifinals.
"I thought if I would have played a little bit better we would have beat Dallas, we would have went further in the playoffs," the 34-year old Finley said. "Coming into the season that was my mind-set."
With the past weighing heavily on his mind, Finley struggled early in his second season with the Spurs, and he heard about it.
"We took some time and talked about one thing," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "If he's in the gym and the ball is in his hands, we want him to shoot it. We'd rather have him make me talk to him about a bad shot than not take a shot. I can't remember the last time I talked to him about a bad shot. He's been great in that regard."
Popovich said he thought Finley's professionalism and desire to not overstep his role on the team was keeping him from letting go.
Around the beginning of the year and the All-Star break in February, Finley said he started heeding Popovich's directive.
"He's figured out quite wisely that what's better for everybody is for him to be shooting the basketball and not worrying about other things on the offensive end," Popovich said.
Finley went 48-for-109 (44 percent) on 3s in March and April after going 56-for-177 (32 percent) in the first four months of the season. He shot 110-for-240 (46 percent) from the field overall in those two months.
Finley shot nearly 53 percent from 3-point range during the first round of the playoffs, up from 36 percent during the regular season.
"We got the ball to him. It wasn't like we were trying to pinpoint him," Tim Duncan said Wednesday after the Spurs 93-78 win. "He just got shots within the offense and he got hot there."
Finley started all five first-round games for San Antonio and started seven of 10 games in April.
The Spurs will be looking for Finley to keep up his strong play when the Spurs face the Phoenix Suns, who led the league in scoring during the regular season, in the Western Conference semifinals.
San Antonio's league-leading defense held opponents to just over 90 points a game during the regular season and kept Denver to an average of 88.2 points per game during their playoff series. The Spurs averaged 94.2 points against the Nuggets.
The Suns, in contrast, averaged more than 110 points a game during the regular season and more than 108 points a game in their first-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers. Phoenix advanced with a 119-110 win at home in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Finley, who also spent more than a season with Phoenix at the beginning of his career, said he's glad for the few days' rest he'll get before Game 1 against the Suns.
"It definitely helps guys like myself and Robert (Horry, 36), the elder statesmen of the team," Finley said. "But I think it helps everybody to sit back and enjoy this victory tonight (Game 5) and maybe some tomorrow. Definitely the days off are beneficial."