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Rockets keep breathing on a dagger 3 from Troy Daniels

By Royce Young | NBA writer

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First the Rockets got James Harden. Then they got Dwight Howard. A powerhouse duo built to contend with the top dogs of the NBA.

But who was it drilling the big shot to keep their season alive, silencing a rabid crowd in Portland in game 3? Some guy named Troy Daniels.

First, back to the significance of the win. The Rockets flirted with choking away another fourth quarter lead, but held on to pull out a 121-116 win in overtime. They still have to win at least once more in Portland, but a loss on Friday would've nearly guaranteed the Rockets' elimination. No team in NBA playoff history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and with their predicament being a little more difficult considering they lost the first two at home, there was little chance the series would even return to Houston.

But Daniels, a rookie from VCU, who made maybe as many trips to Rio Grande Valley -- the Rockets' D-League affiliate (here's his Wikipedia page, you're welcome) -- as he hit shots in the regular season, stepped up in the biggest of moments. On a mad scramble, Jeremy Lin scooped a loose ball and kicked to Daniels who had potentially the weight of the season resting on his shoulders.

It had to happen like that for the Rockets. Harden was better in Game 3, getting things going a bit in the second half, but still needed 35 shots to score 37 points. Dwight Howard was again good -- 24 points, 14 rebounds -- but the Blazers neutralized him mostly in crunch time. So if the Rockets were to somehow extend their stay on life support, it was going to have to come via an unlikely source. And Daniels was the unlikeliest, since pretty much everyone was Googling him after he hit that shot.

Another thing the Rockets managed to do: Slow LaMarcus Aldridge. The Rockets held him to 23 points on 8-of-22 shooting, and did it by using more size, featuring both Howard and Omer Asik on him for most the game. That opened the door for Damian Lillard,who put up 30 points on 16 shots, but the Trail Blazers were missing that knockout punch. Lillard had a shot to win it in regulation, and the assumption was that he'd have another shot at a winner right after the Blazers rebounded what was sure to be a miss by whoever No. 30 is for the Rockets.

His name is Troy Daniels. He didn't miss. And Houston is right back in the series.

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