White Steps Up in Smart, Brogdon’s Absence in 25-Point vs. Over Hawks

Missing the top two point guards on their depth chart Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics needed a big game out of Derrick White while facing off against an elite backcourt in Atlanta.

And boy, did he deliver.

White stepped up in the absences of Marcus Smart (right ankle inflammation) and Malcolm Brogdon (right hamstring tightness) and produced the best facilitating game of his Celtics career, handing out a season-high 10 assists to go with 16 points and five rebounds in a 126-101 win at State Farm Arena.

For Boston, it was its most lopsided win of the season and against a Hawks team that entered the night with a 9-5 record, including two wins against the 11-3 Milwaukee Bucks.

It marked White’s second straight game with 16 points, after scoring that many off the bench in a 126-122 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night. In his past two games, the combo guard has logged a total of 32 points, 15 assists, and four steals, while shooting 55.5 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from 3-point range, and 100 percent from the free-throw line. He also committed only three turnovers during that span.

White has stepped up throughout Brogdon’s four-game absence, averaging 13.5 points, 5.8 assists, and 0.8 turnovers per game, while reaching double-figures in the scoring department in each contest.

The sixth-year veteran has been the definition of steady, despite his role being anything but that. White began the season as the starting 2-guard – a role which he played for the first nine games. He then moved to the bench for three straight games, started again in Game 13, and went back to the bench in Game 14 before rejoining the starting five for Game 15 against the Hawks.

Even though his role has been constantly changing, White’s approach has remained the same.

"Just trying to go out there, compete, have fun, make the right play, and I was able to do that tonight,” he told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin in a walk-off interview Wednesday night.

Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla commended White for his steadiness and his ability to step up when needed.

“I think it’s just a matter of keeping his confidence and his aggressiveness and his ability to find spots through the game where he can make a huge impact,” said the rookie head coach. “I thought he did a good job in pick-and-roll situations and making the right read at the rim.”

White had some tremendous reads that contributed to his season-high assist total. There was one in particular that stood out late in the third quarter when he went in for a layup, got blocked, but manage to recover the ball and kick it out to the corner for a Sam Hauser 3-pointer before landing out of bounds.

For the third point guard on the depth chart to have such strong awareness and playmaking skills is an incredible benefit for the Celtics and a testament to their depth.

Even beyond that, Payton Pritchard has done a stellar job as the No. 4 option in the 1-spot. The third-year point guard has scored in double figures in three of the past four games, including a season-high 14 points Wednesday night, which featured a 4-of-6 shooting effort from deep.

To have 30 points and 14 assists from those two guys while facing one of the best backcourt duos in the league – Trae Young and Dejounte Murray – was both eye-popping and reassuring. It showed that even without the top two dogs at the point, the Celtics could still deliver a convincing win over a formidable foe.