By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Like James Harden, Mr. 32.9 percent from the field in the playoffs, was going to save the Rockets’ night and probably their season. The Rockets weren’t going to throw the ball to Dwight Howard with the clock draining down from 20 seconds to 15 to 12. Chandler Parsons had fouled out with 3:40 left in overtime. They didn’t have many good options.
Enter Troy Daniels.
Not just into the game, either. Into franchise lore, basically. Getting the ball for the shot of his life happened only thanks to a broken play where Harden lost control, and the reason he was out on the court at all in that situation may have only been because Parsons fouled out. What happened, in other words, was never supposed to happen.
An undrafted rookie out of Virginia Commonwealth, Daniels played for the Bobcats in summer league and played five games and 75 minutes for the Rockets. He spent most of the season with their D-League affiliate Rio Grande. And on Friday he saved Houston from a 3-0 deficit in the first round against the Trail Blazers that would have meant almost certain elimination.
It was Daniels who did not hesitate when he got the ball while open on the left side, Daniels who did not flinch as LaMarcus Aldridge ran at him, and Daniels who hit the 27-foot 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds remaining in Portland that gave the visitors a 119-116 lead that became a 121-116 victory to climb back within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“It’s a dream come true,” Daniels said. “Plain and simple.”
Except that it was anything but plain and simple. The shot itself, maybe — Daniels was known as a 3-point threat. In college, though. In the D-League.
In the NBA? In the playoffs?
He wasn’t known as that. He wasn’t known as anything.
“We needed someone to make a couple 3s,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “Or three 3s.”
Daniels had them covered. He made the three in six tries, with all of his shots coming from behind the arc in 20 minutes of his first playoff game. He was that someone.