X-Man Propels C's Past Heat (94-95)

April 2, 1995

As the careers of NBA veterans progress, the opposition seems to get younger. This has been the case for Xavier McDaniel, who has survived by using his experience, instincts and old-fashioned determination.

On Friday night, McDaniel was matched against Glen Rice during a 100-99 win over Miami. Today, against Dallas, he might be going against Popeye Jones or Jamal Mashburn.

McDaniel, 32, not only survived against Rice and Miami, he helped inspire the Celtics in a first-half run during which they took control of the game, and he was on the court for the final shot, chasing Rice as the clock expired.

Neither McDaniel nor his teammates could stifle Rice, who scored 26 points. But over the course of nearly 2 1/2 hours, they prevented him from converting a 3-pointer -- he averages nearly one-third of his 21 points per game on them -- and that might have been enough to put him off when he missed the last shot.

"They set a pick for him and I kind of ran right by him a little bit," McDaniel said. "I'm just glad he missed it. When you have to rush it, it's a little tougher shot.

"But I thought I played some pretty good defense. He hit a lot of tough shots."

There were feelings of accomplishment and relief after the victory. Had Rice converted, though, the atmosphere would have been quite different.

"That's the way we have been playing all year," McDaniel said. "People would have said, 'Oh, yeah, they let another one get away.' "

And McDaniel would have been among the scapegoats. He had sparked the team early, joining Pervis Ellison and Dino Radja in an effective combination that rallied the Celtics from a 26-17 deficit to a 5-point lead. McDaniel had scored a 3-point play on a third-chance follow that was a credit to his guile and persistence.

Ellison and Radja also were effectively aggressive underneath, but the most remarkable aspect of this front line's play was its inside passing. McDaniel started the trend by assisting Radja for a dunk, Radja's first of 10 field goals and the one that seemed to bolster Radja's confidence.

McDaniel scored 12 points, surpassing his season average of 9, though far below the standards he set earlier in his career. But on a night when leading scorer Dominique Wilkins was off his game, McDaniel played the complementary role perfectly.

"I was surprised to be in there so much," McDaniel said. "It depends on how 'Nique is doing and how well I am doing. If he is doing well, he will get the majority of minutes and if I am doing well, I will get the majority of minutes.

"I understand that he needs to be on the floor more than me sometimes and he has to understand when I need to be on the floor. It's been up and down for both of us. One minute we will have a nice little high, then a terrible low.

"Chris (Ford) has had a tough time finding time for both of us."

Ford probably chose the right small forward Friday. McDaniel's best contributions were not quantifiable. But in the final three minutes, he was the only Celtic to score from the field until Radja's game-winning dunk in the final two seconds.

"We needed that win if we want to get the eighth spot for the playoffs," McDaniel said. "Jersey, Miami, whoever gets on a streak is going to get it. Hopefully, it will be us."

The Celtics will conduct a clinic sponsored by the Globe at noon today at the Garden.

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