With the New England Patriots eliminated from the playoffs weeks before, Boston sports fans turned their attention to Sunday afternoon's Eastern Conference battle between the Boston Celtics (38-12) and the Orlando Magic (32-20) at TD Garden.
After a slow start and a grueling 48 minutes of physical basketball,the Green emerged victorious over Orlando, winning 91-80 on the back of 26 points by Rajon Rondo and poor shooting by the Magic. The Celtics managed to limit Dwight Howard's shooting in the second half and kept Orlando's perimeter shooting out of the game.
Yes, it was a solid victory for the Celtics on Sunday, but the game was marred by the loss of Marquis Daniels, who went down with a bruised spinal cord early in the going. Marquis was on his way to the basket when he ran into Gilbert Arenas, causing his head to jerk sideways and sending him crashing to the parquet floor. He lay motionless on the floor for several minutes as the Garden crowd waited anxiously for the trainers to tend to him.
Eventually, Daniels was carted off the court on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to New England Baptist Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a bruised spinal cord. Early word from the Celtics is that he will miss one to two months of play, but has full movement throughout his body and is expected to make a full recovery.
Marquis Daniels seems to have avoided life-threatening injury. But the Celtics are now left to wonder: how does the loss of Daniels for much of the remaining regular season affect their ability to perform down the stretch?
Daniels is averaging 5.6 points per game and 19.1 minutes per game so far this season, so the Celts will miss his small scoring boost, no matter how minuscule it may seem. Daniels provided solid consistency off the bench, primarily serving as a means of getting the starters rest and holding the fort. Daniels certainly has talent, and along with his ability to score when necessary, he played decent defense as well.
The other guys in the back-court will have to step up and play a few extra minutes to compensate for the loss. Expect to see Ray Allen and Paul Pierce continue to lead the way in outside shooting to fill the hole left by Daniels, and look for more guys to step up on defense as well.
I think the Celtics will have an easier time replacing Daniels in the regular season, and if all goes well, they may have him back in time for the Playoffs. The Celts will certainly need him by then, because as we learned last June, every single point matters.
The Celtics can hold their own for now. But come playoff time, they'll need Daniels healthy and ready play. Even the slightest advantage on paper means all the difference on the court.