Normally, a player doesn’t play in the NBDL Playoffs and the NBA Playoffs within a span of 15 days. Troy Daniels isn’t your normal player though.
Daniels, an undrafted rookie out of Virginia Commonwealth University, set the NBDL record for most three-pointers in a season this year, but even then it took until February 21st for him to catch on with an NBA team, and until March 5th for him to make his NBA debut. However, it wasn’t until April 9th that Troy Daniels really caught anybody’s attention in Houston. It was that night where Daniels hit four 4th quarter threes in a furious (unsuccessful) comeback attempt against the Denver Nuggets and caught the attention of Houston Rockets fans for his beautiful shot.
However, three days later, Daniels was back in the D-League playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in an NBDL playoffs game. Daniels scored 30 in that contest (though he hit just 6-for-17 from three-point land, and was overshadowed by teammate Darius Morris’ 51 points and 18 assists), and then proceeded to hop on the plane and meet up with the Rockets – to play in their game that evening. I would say that it is fair to attribute his 1-for-5 shooting night to the fact that he played 44 minutes in a playoff game just hours earlier. More importantly, since his shooting struggles (in both leagues) on April 12th, it seems as though Daniels has forgotten how to miss.
Daniels knocked down six threes on 11 attempts on his way to an NBA career-high 22 points in only his fifth NBA game during the Rockets’ season-ending win over the New Orleans Pelicans. But it looked as though Daniels would be unable to see the court in the NBA Playoffs due to Kevin McHale’s shortened lineup. Following back-to-back “Did Not Play- Coach’s Decision” designations in the box scores of Games 1 and 2, Daniels found his way into the Rockets’ lineup in Game 3. I’d say it turned out pretty well.
Daniels hit three-for-six on threes during the game, including the game-winner with 11.9 seconds left, a shot that essentially earned him the election as mayor of Clutch City, at least for one night.
But, basketball can be a fickle game, and the probability that Daniels would be unable to build upon the hype created after Game 3 was high.
Troy Daniels doesn’t care about probability though. After one of the most improbable paths to the NBA Playoffs this season, Daniels decided that he wasn’t about to disappear into the background that quickly. In fact, he was even more impressive in Game 4 than he was during his Game 3 coming out party. Daniels shot 5-for-7 from the field (including 4-for-5 from behind the arc), and also knocked down the first three free throws of his NBA career to pull the Rockets within one with 8.9 seconds left.
For those keeping track of stats at home, that gives Daniels an average of 13 points per game on 7-for-11 treys (64 percent) in two games so far this postseason – numbers that become even more surprising when compared to his 28 points per game on 11-for-33 three-pointers (33 percent) in two games during the NBDL Playoffs this season. It is a commonly held belief that the most stressful situations bring out the best in people, and Daniels is proving that with his performance in his first two NBA Playoffs games. It couldn’t come at a better time for another reason as well: the lack of a consistent scoring presence off the bench for the Rockets in this series. As Jeremy Lin has struggled to get going in these playoffs, McHale has simultaneously ignored the majority of his bench, as Omri Casspi, Donatas Motiejunas and Jordan Hamilton have yet to see the court in this series versus the Portland Trail Blazers, while Francisco Garcia has received back-to-back “DNP-CD”s the past two games.
The Rockets currently find themselves in a 3-1 hole in the series, and will need a substantial spark if they have any hope of winning the next three games. Whether or not Daniels will able to be that spark has yet to be seen, but it’s evident that Daniels has a sense of urgency that the Rockets need. Also, since the Rio Grande Valley Vipers were eliminated from the NBDL Playoffs, Daniels knows that he has to extend this playoff run since he no longer has a back-up plan. One thing is for certain though: at least one Rockets player is trying to bring back the Clutch City designation to the team – and right now, under Mayor Troy Daniels’ watch, the downtown section of the city is looking pretty promising.