White’s Aggressiveness Sets Tone in Game 4 Rout of Miami
BOSTON – Derrick White hadn’t been pleased with his play in Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, so on the morning of Game 4, he told the media exactly what he was about to do later that night.
“The last game and a half I've just been real passive,” White said at Monday morning's shootaround, “so on both sides just be a little more aggressive and create for myself and my teammates and try to help in any way.”
White helped in a big way Monday night, as he set the tone by scoring the first seven points of the game, which sparked an 18-1 Celtics run out of the gate and eventually led to a 102-82 series-tying win.
“I said this morning, if I was going to fail, I was going to do it aggressively and just try to get back to how I play,” White said after the game. “Obviously, got off to a good start, and just tried to just keep it going for 48 minutes.”
White stepped into the starting lineup in place of an injured Marcus Smart and stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, eight rebounds and team-high marks of six assists and three steals, while playing a game-high 41 minutes.
It was without a doubt the most well-rounded effort he’s had since joining the Celtics in February, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time considering Smart’s absence and the team’s position being down 2-1 in the series.
“We wanted him to be confident, aggressive, and he picked his spots well early on,” said head coach Ime Udoka. “[The Heat] guard him a certain way. Told him look for the shot but also get downhill and facilitate, and he does that extremely well. Just happened that he got the right looks, took the shots that were there and then started to find the other guys.”
Finding his way among the other guys has been a challenge for White at times, as he’s had some inconsistent stretches since being acquired in mid-February. However, such can be expected for someone in his position: joining a team mid-season after it has already started clicking and forming an identity.
“I mean, you kind of get thrown in, middle of the year, no training camp, nothing,” said White, who had only been a part of one NBA organization – the San Antonio Spurs – in his first four and a half NBA seasons. “They've got something that they've established, been playing I don't know how many months together throughout the year. You kind of just learn it on the fly, try not to step on any toes.”
His teammates understand how tough it is to be in a situation like that, and so they try to instill confidence within the veteran guard so that he can just relax and be himself.
“Just letting him know that he can be comfortable with us, letting him know he’s welcome,” said Rob Williams, who logged 12 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in Game 4. “I tried to do that since the day he got here. It's hard, especially middle of the season coming to a team … So I just try to let him know we're thankful for him, welcome him to this brotherhood.”
The type of game that White had Monday night resembled his nightly performances from his days in San Antonio where he developed the reputation of being a jack of all trades.
The lob... THE JAM pic.twitter.com/iUf4BU2inU— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 24, 2022
Udoka, who coached White for a couple of seasons with the Spurs, knows exactly how valuable he is, and White has already proven his value in several areas with the Celtics.
“He checks so many boxes for us,” said Udoka. “It's not only things that show up on the stat sheet or the scoring, but he's the guy that moves the ball extremely well, defends extremely well multiple positions, so all those things he does for us, we don't lose a lot with certain guys in or out. With him it was just a matter of understanding who we are here, the difference from San Antonio where [Gregg Popovich] is on him about not fouling, I want us to be a little more aggressive and don't mind taking a foul or two. So he's had to shift his mindset as far as that. I've tried to get him up to speed with what everybody else is doing. It's going to take some time, but I couldn't be more happy with him being here and what he brings to our team.”
White showed a little bit of everything that he can bring to the team in his performance Monday night, scoring, rebounding, assisting, and defending at a high level. It was the most aggressive version of White that we’ve seen in green, and it set the tone for a monumental Game 4 win.