Daniels Flexes on Heat in Pivotal Game 3

BOSTON – Marquis Daniels has spent most of his time during the playoffs “flexing” on the sideline after his teammates made big plays on the court.

It was time for Daniels to do some flexing of his own on the court Friday night.

The little-used swingman had averaged exactly 1.0 minutes of action over the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, but he was on the floor for more than 17-times that average during Friday’s Game 3. Boy, did he made every second count.

Daniels played a pivotal role in Boston’s 101-91 victory by leading the team’s reserves with nine points and five rebounds in just more than 17 minutes of action. His play was so strong that it garnered raves from nearly every player and coach – from both teams – who spoke to the media following the contest.

Marquis Daniels

The Celtics "flex" on the sideline when their teammates make big plays. Marquis Daniels was able to make those plays during Game 3.
David Dow/NBAE/Getty

The most colorful and heartfelt comments of them all came from fellow reserve Keyon Dooling. Dooling wasn’t afraid to pull back the curtain and explain how difficult times can be for a prideful veteran like Daniels, who is rarely given an opportunity to impact games.

“I continue to go back to Marquis because he’s a guy who hasn’t played much throughout these playoffs,” Dooling said. “I spend a lot of time with him off the court and there are a lot of frustrating nights for him. But through all the frustration he is able to keep a level of professionalism that is second to none.”

Dooling continued, “Imagine not playing much throughout these whole playoffs and having the cardio to play against some of the best athletes we have in our league – and be able to excel. I tip my hat to him.”

So should LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

That star duo on Miami’s side of the ball doesn’t only include two of the best athletes in the NBA, but also two of the best athletes in the entire world. There are starters in this league who aren’t prepared to handle them. Daniels, who prides himself on his work ethic, was called upon to defend both of those players on the regular Friday night.

He was up to the task because he understands that he there is always a chance that his number might be called. Daniels wants to be there for his teammates when they need him the most, and he was during Game 3.

“I just have to stay ready regardless,” he explained. “I stay in every day at the shootaround, come in early and keep working out, because you never know when your number is going to be called. So you have to be ready for whenever it is.”

That moment arrived again Friday night, as Daniels realized when Rivers signaled for the nine-year vet to check into the game with 1:36 remaining in the first quarter.

Had we, the media, listened closely to Rivers’ comments before Game 3, we may have had an inkling that Daniels’ name was going to be called upon. As Rivers spoke to reporters about an hour before tip-off, he singled Daniels out for playing a huge role in Boston’s Game 2 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. No one outside of Rivers knew at the time that he was actually leaning toward handing big minutes over to Daniels in this series.

In hindsight, Rivers was painting the letters on the wall before the game: Marquis Daniels will play in Game 3, and he may have a similar impact in this one as he did back in the first round. If Rivers painted those letters on the wall, Daniels certainly didn’t see them.

“[Rivers] told me the last two games, ‘Be ready. You're going to play tonight,’ “ Daniels explained after the game as a grin crept across his face. “He didn't say nothing to me tonight. Hopefully he doesn't say anything to me next game.”

He’d better not, because Daniels needs to be given ample playing time yet again.

Daniels’ statistical productivity will stand out to many, but he brought so much more to the floor than the numbers. Boston was struggling mightily with Miami’s pick-and-roll when backup centers Greg Stiemsma or Ryan Hollins were on the floor. When Daniels checked into the game with the small lineup, it allowed the Celtics to switch on those pick-and-rolls and still be able to defend at both positions. The move was a game-changer, and that’s why Rivers rolled with it as often as he did.

Now the Celtics have discovered a new formula to attack the Miami Heat with. They are now back in this series, and it’s in large part because of Daniels’ preparation for this moment.

“Guys on the bench, they are registered professional,” said Paul Pierce. “Marquis hasn’t really played a lot for us in this series, but when his name was called upon he was ready. That’s what being a professional is all about.”

Daniels is clearly a registered professional, and if you haven’t heard the news, he’s also a registered flexor. He’s been forced to flex from the sideline for the majority of these playoffs, but now it looks like he’ll be flexing on the Heat for the remainder of this series.