Rivers turns to Daniels in critical moment

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Rivers turns to Daniels in critical moment

BOSTON With 9.3 seconds left and a mere two-point lead, Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers turned to an unlikely option.

Marquis Daniels had played in just two of the first five games of the series against the Atlanta Hawks and had yet to step on the court in Game 6. Yet he would be assigned the responsibility of stopping center Al Horford, who scored eight points in three minutes, from sending the deciding match to overtime.

Well, we wanted to go small with one big, Doc Rivers explained following the Celtics 8380 win. And the mistake we made, and we were trying to screen Marquis shouldve been guarding the ball, out of bounds, and Kevin (Garnett) shouldve been on Horford. They got mixed up, and we got lucky.

Horford drove the basket, looking to tie the game up at 81. Daniels watched the big man with mere seconds to decide his next move. The thought of going for a steal crossed his mind but there was a chance Horford would still score. Instead, Daniels dealt a hard foul that put Horford on the line with 2.3 seconds to go.

I just made sure he didnt get it off, said Daniels. I saw the ball in his hands and I thought, should I go for the steal? I was like, no, I didnt want to be the person who got scored on in the end. I just wanted to make sure I gave it a good hard foul, just make sure he earned it.

Its playoffs. I was in a bad spot. I just had to make sure he didnt get an and-one when he got the shot off. I just had to get a good, hard foul.

Horford entered the game shooting 75 percent from the free throw line. He needed to go two-for-two to send the game into overtime.

He missed the first attempt.

I just put it on me, said Horford. It felt good and I thought it was good. It just didnt go down so I just had to make sure I made the second one.

Horford connected on the second free throw, but by then the Hawks had to foul to get another possession down 81-80. Paul Pierce iced the Celtics win.

Its disappointing, especially when, myself, I have a chance to tie it and send the game to overtime, said Horford. Thats tough to swallow. Both of the free throws felt good. The first one, I was surprised that I missed. Its one of those things that its hard and thats something that I have to keep working on and get better for next season.

After being eliminated from the playoffs, Horford looked back at the shots he could have made. Across the hall, Daniels looked back on the shots he prevented as the Celtics moved on to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.

I just try to stay in the game the whole time regardless of if Im playing, said Daniels. Im always going to Doc saying, 'look at this play' or giving advice to guys coming off the floor. I try to make sure I stay in the game because of situations like this. You.never know.

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”