Daniels makes big impression in first NBA playoff appearance

Daniels celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-three winner for Houston.
Daniels celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-three winner for Houston.

Troy Daniels first NBA playoffs ended in a very familiar way, on a heart-breaking shot at the end of regulation in Portland’s Rose Hill Arena.

Just over two years ago Daniels was finishing his breakout season as a VCU junior, posting 10 points in the Rams third-round NCAA tournament loss to Indiana before watching a Rams lead disappear late.

After leading by two points with just 0.9 seconds to play last night, Daniels saw Portland guard, Damion Lillard, end yet another season for the former Ram in that building, as the Trailblazer All-Star drained a three to take the first round series, 4-2.

Three games prior, Daniels hit a similar shot, draining a go-ahead three to give the Rockets their first win of the series, an unlikely hero who had spent the majority of his pro career with the D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers before being called up to the team just games prior.

After going undrafted in the 2013 Draft, Daniels opted for the D-League and an opportunity to work his way into the NBA instead of heading overseas for a professional start that would have offered more money up front but with no opportunity to potentially play in the NBA this season.

Daniels proved to be one of the deadliest shooters in D-League action, destroying the previous single season three-point record and proving to the Rockets that the long range specialist could play a role in their playoff run as the 4-seed out of the West. It was a role he almost didn’t play however, as the rookie nearly opted for an overseas contract months into his D-League career, yet ended up sticking it out with the Vipers on the advice of VCU coach, Shaka Smart.

After sitting out the first two games of the series, head coach Kevin McHale gave the rookie a shot in game three in which Daniels hit three of his six long range attempts in 20 minutes of play, including the game-winner.

Daniels saw a postseason-high 21 minutes in the following games, scoring 17 points on 5-7 shooting including a 4-5 showing from deep in the Rockets loss. He saw limited action from there on, posting five points in 17 minutes in a game-five win then zero points in just nine minutes in last night’s season-ender.

Regardless, Daniels impressed in his limited opportunities, averaging 7.8 points in 17 minutes per game while shooting 53.3% from deep and making an impression on both Rockets fans and NBA brass across the league.

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...