On Thursday night in New Jersey, Daniels came up with a beautiful 3-pointer from the corner with 35 seconds to play to bury the Nets and polish off the Celtics' second preseason win; on Sunday, Daniels was again the Celtics' fourth-quarter savior. The backup swingman came up with seven consecutive points midway through the quarter, erasing the Toronto Raptors' lead and propelling the team to 3-0 this October.
In the span of just over one minute, he came up with three huge buckets that turned the tide of the Celtics' TD Garden opener. First a baseline drive for a layup, assisted by Semih Erden; then a 13-foot jumper; and finally, a corner 3 that drove a dagger through the Raptors' hearts by giving Boston a 79-78 lead with 7:20 to play. The Celtics rode that momentum to a 91-87 win, despite playing a motley mix of bench role players against Toronto's crunch-time unit.
Last season, we saw the tentative Marquis Daniels, the oft-injured bench guy who was never able to make his mark. This year, we're getting a look at Marquis Daniels the go-to scorer.
"I'm getting comfortable with it," Daniels said of his jump shot. "I worked on it a lot this summer, and now I'm just taking it when it's there."
To say that he "worked on it a lot" is an understatement. Daniels speaks softly but carries an incredible work ethic. He was in the gym every day this summer, attending self-imposed two-a-days with his old AAU coach. He hoisted up 1,000 3-pointers every day, working his jumper to perfection through sheer repetition. It's paid off.
"I just know that with this team, we've got great post players and a great post presence, with [Rajon] Rondo slashing and other guys driving the lane," Daniels said. "I've just got to focus on knocking down open shots. That was something I wanted to key in on — just showing them that I've been working on that."
Daniels has emerged as a double-digit scoring threat for the Celtics this preseason, scoring 10 points against the Sixers on opening night, followed by nine down in Newark and 11 Sunday night against the Raptors. Whereas last year he couldn't be bothered to throw up a perimeter jump shot, much less drive to the basket, he's now showing the initiative to carry the scoring load for the Celtics' second unit.
"He's healthy now, and he's playing with a lot more confidence," Paul Pierce said. "Especially with his shot. He's playing within the flow of the offense. He's doing pretty much the same things he was doing before he got hurt last year."
"I never really lost my confidence," said Daniels, who missed a two-month chunk of his first season in Boston with a thumb injury. "It was just a matter of having my rhythm."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has shown the faith in Daniels to make him a regular part of the rotation in Boston again. And it's not just because of the two big 3-pointers he's hit so far this preseason — it's because he's making smart decisions, whether he's got the open trifecta or not.
"Honestly, I liked the play before the 3 — where he had the 3, passed it up and took a hard dribble inside," Rivers said. "To me, that's his shot. He can make the 3, but he's a really good shooter from that 12-, 14-foot range. I think that's a smarter play for him. It was followed by the 3 because of that last move — they didn't recover because they thought he was going to do it again, so he pulled up."
Daniels is 29 years old, and we've seen seven unpredictable seasons out of him. And this preseason is still young — it's hard to believe that in three games, we've seen a completely transformed human being wearing the green No. 8.
And yet you watch Daniels in action, and he looks like a changed man.
His teammates have taken notice.
"I was teasing 'Quis earlier," said Nate Robinson. "I said 'Man, don't think about it, just shoot it. If you make it, you make it, if you miss, you miss. We're not perfect. We're not going to make every shot.' So now this year, he said, 'Nate, man, whenever you guys rotate, I'm just going to shoot it. I'm not going to think about it, I'm just going to play.' He's been doing a hell of a job."