Rookie guard Troy Daniels lead the Rockets in scoring as he finished up his fifth career NBA game in the team's season finale, a 105-100 loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday night. He scored a career high 22 points, making six 3-pointers and led the team with five assists. Rockets head coach Kevin McHale played him 44 minutes in the finale and previously trusted him enough to play the final 10:37 of the fourth quarter in the Rockets 111-104 come-from-behind win over New Orleans on Saturday night.
Despite Daniels inexperience, as he has now logged only 78 career minutes, McHale hinted after the game that there is a real chance Daniels has earned himself an opportunity to play more when the playoffs begin.
"He's very diligent, he plays hard," McHale said. "He's a bright kid. He knows what we are trying to do. I like him." When asked if he had planned to expand the rotation at this stage of the season and if that was where he was headed, he replied with one of his most oft-used phrases this season, "We'll see."
Daniels set a D-League record for three-pointers made in a season with 240 and was signed by Houston just after the all-star break on Feb. 21, just after Houston traded Aaron Brooks and waived Ronnie Brewer. He remained with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers before his first call-up on Mar. 2. He played sparingly in a pair of Rockets blowouts, scoring five points, before he was re-assigned to the Vipers.
He was back with the Rockets earlier this month and helped spearhead a spirited comeback in the Apr. 9 game against Denver. He scored 12 points on 4-of-6 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Rockets nearly came back from a 22-point fourth quarter deficit. They lost that game 123-116, but three nights later, Daniels was again on the court in the fourth quarter of a game the Rockets were trailing. Daniels helped spread the floor as part of a very small Rockets five-some that included four guards and Dwight Howard. Despite making just 1-of-5 3-point attempts, the floor spacing he helped provide was good enough to open lanes for the rest of the Rockets guards, who led the charge in a 15-0 closing run, that earned the Rockets a 111-104 victory.
The six 3-pointers Daniels made in the finale matched the fourth highest total for any Rockets player this season. Parsons made 10 3-pointers against Memphis on Jan. 24 to set a new franchise record. Jeremy Lin made nine 3-pointers against Philadelphia on Nov. 13, which had tied the franchise record and James Harden made seven 3-pointers in the Rockets overtime win against Portland on Mar. 9, which clinched the season series against the Blazers for Houston.
The Rockets have used a host of players in the back up role for both James Harden and Chandler Parsons, but none have been able to hold down the spot consistently. Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia and then Jordan Hamilton have all been given an opportunity to nail down those reserve minutes throughout the season. It appears though, that when the playoffs begin at Toyota Center on Sunday night against Portland, that Daniels may hear his number called.