Marquis Daniels Plays Surreal Role of Star in Celtics’ Victory Over Heat

by NESN Staff

June 2, 2012

BOSTON — Sitting up on stage, wearing a plaid shirt and a backpack, Marquis Daniels looked out of place. In a few moments, Dwyane Wade would fill the seat Daniels occupied in front of seven rows of sportswriters, in a setting normally reserved for perennial All-Stars and MVP candidates.

Daniels is neither of those, but on Friday he was as important as any superstar to the Celtics' cause. Along with Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus, Daniels led the way for a bench unit that ramped up the energy and helped turn a tight game into a laugher against the mighty Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

"Whatever coach asks me to do, whether it's rebound, defend, whatever he needs, I go in to bring energy and bring some intensity," Daniels said after the Celtics' 101-91 win.

In scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds while helping to stifle Miami's offense in more than 17 minutes of action, Daniels was the unlikeliest of heroes for Boston. Before each of the first two games of the series, Celtics coach Doc Rivers warned Daniels that he would play that night, yet he logged less than two minutes of floor time in Game 1 and spent all of 18 seconds on the court in Game 2.

When Daniels subbed in for Rajon Rondo with 1:36 left in the first quarter, the inhabitants of the TD Garden were therefore more than a little puzzled. Dooling and Pietrus were already on the floor, meaning Rivers was going all-in with a defensive lineup that included Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as the only featured scorers.

A little more than 37 minutes of game time later, Daniels was seated at the podium, being asked about his role in the Celtics' win that halved their series deficit to 2-1. This time, he had not even gotten a warning from Rivers before the game. In retrospect, he took that as a good sign.

"Hopefully, he doesn't say anything to me next game," Daniels said.

In the four minutes Daniels, Dooling and Pietrus were on the court together, the Celtics scored seven more points than the Heat. Dooling and Daniels' back-to-back baskets in the first quarter turned a three-point Celtics deficit into a one-point lead, which steadily grew to nine points on a layup by Daniels in the second quarter. The Celtics led by at least seven points for the rest of the first half and led by 13 points at halftime.

Five different Celtics scored at least six points in the first half, with Dooling scoring seven first-half points to lead all bench scorers. Meanwhile, LeBron James scored 20 first-half points, but Wade was 3-for-9 from the field and Mario Chalmers was 2-for-5. Dooling outscored Miami's bench all by himself in the first half.

"The reserves came into the game and really knocked us back on our heels," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "From that point on, we were playing catch-up, it seemed like, the whole night. We couldn't get over the hump."

Throughout the home locker room, from Pierce to Ray Allen, the Celtics said they were "happy" and "proud" to see Daniels participate in a crucial win. They noted how Daniels is always one of the last players to leave the court after practices and shootarounds, even though he often plays the least of any non-rookie in the actual games.

In all the attention heaped on Daniels, Pietrus and Dooling's contributions were an afterthought, not that they seemed to mind.

"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.
"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."

Perhaps to blunt the shock to Daniels' system, the Celtics sent Rondo to the dais with him. After the first two questions were posed to Daniels, he sat patiently as reporters peppered Rondo with questions. Daniels answered one more query directed at him before the interview concluded, but as he and Rondo turned to exit through the door where they had entered, they were ushered away. James and Wade were preparing to enter, so Daniels and Rondo had to find a different way out.

Daniels may have had to step aside for two international icons, but on this night, he was one of the stars, too. Guided by a few members of the Celtics and NBA's staff, Daniels strolled out through the media workroom, where writers pecked away at laptops, writing stories about him.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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