On the Rockets for one reason, to do one thing, Troy Daniels did it. The guy that spent almost no time with Rockets all season, saved it. Daniels, who was an undrafted rookie who had spent most of the past six months setting 3-point shooting records with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, nailed a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in overtime, stunning the Blazers, 121-116, on Friday as the Rockets cut the deficit in their first-round series to 2-1. Signed to the Rockets’ roster in February off the Rockets’ D-League team and then immediately sent back to McAllen, Daniels had been with the Rockets for five games all season, but played the final 10 minutes against the Spurs, started the finale and put smooth shooting stroke in Kevin McHale’s back pocket. McHale called on that long-range touch when he needed it most, with Daniels delivering the jumper both teams sought in the frantic final minutes of overtime. “A couple weeks ago, he was in the D-League,” James Harden said. “Now, he saved our season.” In a way, he did it by doing what he has done for months, just on a bigger stage and under brighter lights. “No hesitation,” Daniels said. “When you’re a shooter, you can’t hesitate. If I would have hesitated, we would have probably lost the game. It feels great just to hit a game winner.” Daniels hit 240 3-pointers for the Vipers this season. The previous record for the entire Vipers team in a season was 152. “Just being ready,” Daniels said. “My teammates and my coaches, they instilled confidence in me to be able to shoot that shot. That’s what I do. That’s my job. It was a great shot, a great game. “I looked over at James and I saw he was hyped so I yelled back at him.” Daniels said he yelled, “Let’s go!” Harden said that wasn’t quite it. “He said some other words,” Harden said. The Rockets broke through when Jeremy Lin recovered a loose ball and found Daniels for the game-winning 3. After Nicolas Batum missed a 3 to tie the game, Harden finished it out at the line. The difference, however, was the shot taken by a rookie who had played 16 minutes in the game, but only returned in overtime because Chandler Parsons fouled out. McHale had told Daniel to “be ready” during the day. He told him just a bit more when he needed him. “I needed someone to make a couple 3s, or three 3s,” McHale said. “He can shoot the ball. We needed someone to spread the court. Troy can knock it down. I honestly told him, “Young fella, go out there and fight your butt off. I feel bad you weren’t with us longer to get more comfortable, but you’re going to have to get as comfortable as you possible can right now.’ And he did. “He can shoot it. One thing I did see in Troy is that he’s a tough kid. He’s going to get his nose dirty and we needed to get some nose-dirty players.” His third 3-pointer was just enough with the Blazers missing their final five shots. Harden struggled at times, but bounced back from his two-game slump to lead the Rockets with 37 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He made just 13 of 35 attempts, missing more shots than he ever has in a game. It also set a Rockets playoff record for most field goal attempts. Dwight Howard has 24 points and 14 rebounds while Damian Lillard scored 30 to lead the Blazers. With the Rockets starting Omer Asik on LaMarcus Aldridge, Aldridge had 23 points, but just two in overtime as the Rockets felt they had finally slowed him enough. The Rockets, however, did just enough to survive, knowing their playoff lives were at stake. “I don’t want to look back and say ‘I got next year,’” Harden said on Friday. “Tonight is the night to turn things around.” As with the opening game of the series, the Rockets could not make an 11-point fourth quarter lead hold up and ended up in overtime where they again could not get stops. “We’re not a fine-tuned machine right now,” McHale said. “We missed a ton of layups, but we went out and played hard.” Batum, Aldridge and Lillard each went to the rim, with Batum finishing a drive, Aldridge drawing Chandler Parsons’ sixth foul and Lillard zipping past Harden to a reverse for a 116-112 lead.
Rookie Daniels the unlikely hero as Rockets beat Blazers 121-116 in OT in Game 3
Houston Chronicle | Apr 26