He appears to be a quiet and unassuming guy off the court, but Marquis Daniels can't afford to let that personality define his play on the court. In the six games prior to last night's thrashing of the Detroit Pistons, Daniels had tallied just 17 points, two assists, two rebounds, six turnovers, and nine personal fouls, prompting Doc Rivers to pronounce before last night's game that Daniels "has to play better - point blank."
Daniels obliged, scoring 11 points, grabbing five rebounds, handing out four of the team's 34 assists, while blocking one shot and committing just one turnover against Detroit. It was the type of well-rounded and assertive performance that the Celtics both expect and need out of Daniels. For, despite him being something of a stabilizer of sorts for the second unit - given he can help in a variety of areas - he can't be a guy who sits back and observes what his bench mates are doing, like a camp counselor watching the kids run around. He needs to be involved in as much of the action as the other four guys around him, for he's a player who's quite capable of making good things happen for both himself and his teammates.
What was most noticeable last night was not necessarily any one statistical category. His points were spread out over the course of the game, and his rebounds and assists were not of the flashy type, so one watching without the utmost intensity might not have even noticed them. However, even the most casual of observers of last night's game had to notice how often Daniels had his hands on the basketball, and how often his involvement seemed to result in something positive for the Celtics.
His offense was as diverse as ever, as he scored on a mashup of slashing layups, sleek spin moves, "tweener" shots in the paint, and the one jumper from the right wing with 2:26 left in the third. His jumper continues to be one of the few weak spots of his game, but he more than makes up for it by conducting the majority of his offense within 10 feet of the basket. The "tweener" shot - the short fading jumper from about five to eight feet from the hoop - is one of his most lethal weapons, and he knows how to utilize it well.
Daniels' production was most noticeable in the first half, when an efficient Paul Pierce found himself stricken with three fouls. One of his signature moments came with 1:57 left in the first quarter, when he lost the ball off a Rondo steal, went sprinting towards the baseline, saved the ball to Ray Allen, crashed into the front row, recovered, got back in play, got the ball back from Ray, and then found a cutting Rasheed Wallace for a wide open dunk and a 27-11 lead. It's that type of energy and aggressiveness that accounts for much of Daniels' success. When you see his hair bouncing up and down as he's bounding all around the floor, you know he's trying to make things happen. When the hair just hangs there, motionless, he's not doing his job.
Last night the hair was bouncing. And bouncing. And bouncing. And bouncing. And the Celtics were a better team because of it.