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Marquis Daniels & The Bench Rotation Mystery

 

As closely as we follow the Celtics, it’s a source of frustration that we’re over a third of the way through the season and the bench – what it is, what it could be, what it might need – remains a mystery. With Delonte West having missed all but five games, with Nate Robinson forced into roles inappropriate to his skillset, with Jermaine O’Neal looking incapable of contributing anything of substance right now, with Kendrick Perkins‘ absence creating questions about who’ll play the 5-spot on the second unit, and with Semih Erden and Avery Bradley logging unexpected minutes, we’re left with a lot of guesswork as to the capabilities of this group.

Sherlock Holmes-style guesswork.

Last night, Marquis Daniels gave us a clearer look at how the puzzle pieces might fit together. At least at the small positions.

Forced into extended minutes when Robinson left with a cut over his eye, Daniels recorded perhaps his best game of the season. It was certainly his most versatile. Daniels put up 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks in a near-season high 31 minutes of action. His scoring brought the Celtics’ first unit back in the third quarter and his measured play at the PG-spot dictated tempo in the fourth.

More importantly, his ability to be used at three separate offensive and defensive positions created havoc for his former team.

Daniels joined the first unit with 4:21 left in the third quarter, with the Celtics trailing 60-53, checking TJ Ford. The 6’6″ Daniels has a full half-foot on Ford but can still stay in front of him on defense in the halfcourt. Much like Paul Pierce, Daniels manages to get where he wants to go on the floor, without ever looking like he’s moving very fast.

And on the offensive end of the floor, Daniels changed the game. The Pacers used both Brandon Rush and Ford on him in the third, but neither worked. With Ford covering him, Daniels backed his way to the paint and knocked down easy jumpers over late-arriving help. With Rush on him, the Celtics had a mismatch with Ford trying to cover Ray Allen. The Celtics went to that mismatch right away and Allen knocked down a baseline jumper.

In the fourth quarter, Daniels worked over another couple of Pacers. On one early set, he isolated James Posey on the wing and drove past him for a little 5-foot hook. And Darren Collison fared no better. Daniels controlled him on defense and the C’s had mismatches on offense (usually Allen on Collison) after Jim O’Brien finally stuck Mike Dunleavy on Daniels.

All these matchup advantages are predicated on the C’s going big at the small(er) positions.

The third quarter had Daniels out there with Pierce and Allen; all are at least 6’6”. The fourth quarter had Daniels out with Allen and Von Wafer (6’5″) before the starters returned. Projecting from these combinations, you can see a playoff scenario where Robinson is anchored to the bench in favor of Daniels and the Celtics’ wings exploit defenders in the post.

In fact, knowing we’ll usually see one starter out there with the reserves, particularly in the playoffs, I wonder if the ideal iteration for the second unit may eventually prove to be:

Delonte West at PG, Marquis Daniels at SG, Paul Pierce at SF

or

Delonte West at PG, Ray Allen at SG, Marquis Daniels at SF

That first trio’s success hinges on Daniels’ ability to stay in front of quicker shooting guards and the second on his ability to handle all manner of small forwards. Assuming he can do both (and, alas, stay healthy), this could be what we’ll see in the spring.

Daniels may yet prove to be, like he was last night, the C’s x-factor.

  • BrendanJackson

    I think the first playoff combination will be this instead:

    Marquis Daniels at PG, Delonte West at SG, Paul Pierce at SF

    Any way you slice it though, it's a formidable lineup.

    • Ryan DeGama

      Yep. Sure we'll see some of that too. And some cross-matching depending on what the other team is doing on D.

  • http://www.anaheimamigos.com Anaheim Amigos

    Perfect post. Thank you for writing about Marquis. He had the biggest impact of any Celtics player in this game.

  • Scott

    the thing to me is, it seems as if Marquis comes up big when he is needed. I recall another game this season where he came up huge because the starters were not getting it done. Can i name that game, no… but regardless we cannot really afford to lose hope in him. I like his game a lot. Besides a rare appearance from KG in the post every now in then, who is our other low post threat. Shaq? See Xmas day.

    My belief is when Marquis misses early shots, he gets discouraged, and wants to stop shooting. If he makes his first and second shot, he stays aggressive. He is a different type of player, and he is one that i think compliments that first unit VERY well. He moves incredibly without the ball, and is found on the regular by rondo and even nate, and paul. He defends well. Lets not forget that he is a ROLE player, and his ROLE when he was brought here was to defend the lebrons and kobes of the leauge and to give paul breaks during the game. His ROLE was never to average 12-13 a game. When Delonte gets back, there is our other scoring off the bench. Baby gets 12-15 a game consistently. Nate is good for about 3-8 per game, and Delonte should get us anywhere from 8-12 a game. thats roughly 23-35 a game from three players. Will we get that every night. No. But find me a bench that produces what they are "supposed to produce" every night, and then i'll be worried.

    I will continue to keep faith in Marquis, because the man comes to work every day and he wants to win. His defense is consistent, and that is something we should be thankful for. Go C's.

    One last thing. When you look at Boston's starters, and how well they are playing together, especially without Rondo, you have to think that the bench shouldn't be the deciding factor to whether or not we win games. I don't like having to rely on the bench to come in and win games for us every night, and i don't think Doc relies on them to do that either. The bench provides breaks for the old guys, and is in charge of keeping leads, not getting leads. Has anyone every looked at a Miami box score when they win? Its the (weaker) big three scoring ALL THEIR POINTS. the bench combines for maybe 15 ppg. Last night – 13 points from that bench. Xmas day – 19 ponits – probably a season high. To beat Miami, you have to stop one of the big three. Both times we have beat Miami, Dwayne Wade looked like a lost puppy. Thats how you beat Miami. Stop one, and you stop the team.

    • eric_tong

      Great observation about the Miami 3

    • Gretchen

      I totally agree. Its hard to even know who else is playing with LBJ, Wade and Bosh out there.

  • john schaffer

    just keep playing daniels sure better than JO hes usless

    • Gretchen

      Jermaine O'Neal says he wants to retire as a "Pacer" because that's where he became known. He sure is playing like he wants to be somewhere else!

      • Patricia Bearden

        Why does everyone criticize everything he does…We were so happy to have him as a Pacer and most did not ridicule him. Once he was injured it was like a pack of wild dogs coming down on an injured one….do we honestly need to hold against a person, who has played NBA ball since he was 17 years old and now suffers with injuries…My gosh, what is wrong with you, obviously you have no ability to understand anything except a tremendously ugly and negative attitude. Shame, shame on you…you wouldn't know about loyalty to a person who has contributed has much as he has…do you think he is enjoying having to slow down his game to prevent further injuries that could affect him for the rest of his life. Get smart enough not to make stupid comments like this…

  • Idaho

    E. House is playing with Miami 3. It was pretty obvious in both games the C's played them.

  • Aljosa

    No, man. We need Nate in the game when playing against good defences, as last lear we were not able to create anything without Rondo on the floor and went into passive periods lasting for entire quarters…

    Marquis is certainly playing better than last year and having Delonte helps a lot, but none of them is a drive-and-kick, push-the-tempo facilitator that our veteran core needs to keep going. Nate is not nearly as good at this as Rajon, but he certainly gets things moving (remember Orlando series anyone?)

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