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.