Boston’s starting backcourt is made up of last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart, and this season’s leading vote getter among All-Defensive Second Team selections, Derrick White. Yet during Thursday night’s Game 5 against Miami, they were together exceptional at the other end of the floor.
Smart and White combined to score 47 points on 15-of-23 shooting to propel the Celtics to a 110-97 victory over the visiting Heat. They scored 19 of the team’s 35 points during a first-quarter barrage, and they seemingly drilled every big shot they took throughout the night while logging the top two scoring totals of the game. White tallied 24 points, while Smart scored 23.
“You need everybody at some point to come up big,” Jayson Tatum said of winning a playoff series, “and Smart and D-White is the reason we won tonight.”
White shot 6-for-8 from long distance and every one of them felt like he landed a haymaker. Three of those makes arrived during the first quarter, the first of which gave Boston a 16-point lead, the second of which pushed the lead back to 14, and the third of which beat the buzzer to make it a 35-20 game heading into the second quarter.
During the second quarter, after Miami had rattled off three straight points to claw back to within 12 at the 2:59 mark, White canned his fourth triple to initiate an 8-0 run for Boston. His fifth and sixth 3s of the night gave the C’s 19-point advantages, first midway through the third period, and then next with 4:10 left in the fourth.
The timeliness of each of those shots cannot go overstated. A miss here or there followed by a 3-pointer from Miami – which had been a staple of the Heat’s offense through the first three games of this series – could have changed the tenor of the game. Instead, White maintained Boston’s momentum time after time.
As Jaylen Brown succinctly put it, “Big-time player, big-time shots tonight. D-White came ready to play.”
As did his backcourt partner, Smart, who wreaked havoc on the Heat at both ends of the floor. Smart was his usual menacing self at the defensive end, where he snatched a playoff career high five steals. But it was his shot-making that pushed the Celtics into unbeatable mode.
Smart was right on White’s heels and shot 7-for-12 from the floor, which included a 4-for-6 effort from long distance. He made two of Boston’s four consecutive 3-pointers during the first quarter that pushed them ahead by 13 points. His third 3-pointer capped that critical, 8-0 run in the second quarter that was initiated by White, and his final 3 made it a 23-point game with 74 seconds left in the third period.
This type of shooting and scoring performance isn’t exactly a regularity for Smart, as that’s not the role he’s asked to play on this team. On this night, however, he was the team’s leading scorer through three quarters with 21 points. Every single one of them felt like a punch to Miami’s gut.
The Celtics know how that feels. Through the early portion of this series, it was Miami’s Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson who were constantly draining clutch 3s. Those shots were demoralizing for Boston.
Thursday night, it was White and Smart - the defensive gurus - who stole that role to crush the Heat’s hopes of a win.