Derrick White has done an excellent job all season of filling whatever role is needed of him in any given game. Over the past seven contests, Boston has leaned on him to help fill the void of an injured Marcus Smart, and White has stepped up with consistent and efficient scoring, timely playmaking, and tenacious defense.
On Monday night in Detroit, the C’s were without their entire starting backcourt, as Jaylen Brown joined Smart on the injury report at the last minute due to an illness.
This meant even more responsibility would be placed onto White’s shoulders. He rose to the occasion with one of his best efforts of the season, pouring in 23 points, corralling seven rebounds, and handing out a team-high seven assists while committing just one turnover in a 111-99 win at Little Caesar’s Arena. He also finished with a game-best plus-18 in just over 37 minutes of action, the second-most minutes he's played all season.
White’s entire effort was a microcosm of his season, as his role fluctuated throughout the game based on what his team needed out of him at various points.
While Jayson Tatum was struggling to get his shot to fall in the first half, the Celtics relied on White for his scoring and distributing. He tied Sam Hauser for the game lead in points at the break with 15 while dishing out a game-high four assists. In the second half, he played more of a supportive role while Tatum heated up for 18 of his game-high 34 points in the third quarter.
White drove to the basket aggressively throughout the game, which helped him finish with three and-one buckets, including a poster dunk on 6-11 rookie Jalen Duren. He also stepped up down the stretch with a 3-pointer and a driving layup to help Boston put the game away in crunch time.
Such aggressiveness has been on display throughout this seven-game stretch without Smart, during which White has averaged 17.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and just 1.1 turnovers while shooting 48.2 percent from the field, 43.2 percent from 3-point range, and 88.5 percent from the free-throw line. He says it’s helped him snap out of a mid-season, “low-energy” lull, as he’s now reached double-digits in scoring in seven straight games, the longest such stretch of his Celtics career.
“I just wanted to come out, last couple weeks now, just come out with more energy,” he said postgame on NBC Sports Boston. “Whether you make shots, miss shots, just have that right energy from the beginning to the end. I’ve been playing better because of that, just having the right mindset, going in aggressive, having the right energy, and whatever happens, happens.”
Rob Williams’ Historic Stat Line
On the topic of aggressiveness, Rob Williams stepped up his game in that area as well Monday night with just the second 15-point, 15-rebound game of his career.
The fifth-year center became the first player in Celtics history to log a 15-15 game along with two steals while playing less than 30 minutes (he played 28:43).
Jayson Tatum has been urging Williams to be more aggressive around the rim even though he appreciates Williams’ selfless style, calling him “the most pass-first guy I’ve ever played with.”
A 7-for-9 effort inside the restricted area Monday night was just the type of performance Tatum was looking for out of Williams, and it was delivered in historic fashion.