Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Derrick White continues to prove his worth, earns 'MVP' chants from TD Garden crowd

It was another dominating performance for the Celtics, as they topped Atlanta 119-106 Tuesday night to take a 2-0 first-round best-of-7 series lead.

Boston's depth was once again too much for the No. 7 seeded Hawks to handle on both ends of the floor -- as the third best offensive in the league during the regular season (118.7 points per game), Atlanta barely scored 100 points in Game 2 (102.5 in the series), while the C's are averaging 115.5 per contest so far.

Though All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were considered the two best ranked between both teams heading into this matchup, it's been the play of the Celtics role players that has made the difference versus the Hawks "other guys" outside the dynamic backcourt duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.
"Confident about the depth. Confident about the lineups and the different lineups we can play," said Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla during his post-Game 2 presser. "When I mentioned depth, I mentioned the number of players, but I also mentioned the different ways that we can play with the same guys."
For Derrick White, he was Boston's second leading scorer Tuesday, finishing with 26 points on 11-of-16 from the field, including 14-fourth quarter points to help lead a 15-2 run to put away the Hawks for good in the final five minutes.

The veteran guard even earned himself "MVP" chants from the TD Garden faithful, usually reserved for Tatum or Brown, but White has continued to prove his worth as he's averaging 25.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 blocks in the first two games at home.
"I was happy for him," Tatum said in his postgame comments of White's MVP chants. "He's been playing his ass off these last two games. Obviously, a big, big reason why we've won these last two games. We need him to continue to play at this level, and he can. So, I was happy to hear that. We talked about [the chants] after the game. He was like, 'that's what it feels like?' And I was like, 'Yeah, I guess."
White also contributed with seven rebounds and three blocks, coming up big yet again on the defensive end. He becomes only the second guard in Celtics franchise history to record 25-plus points and three-plus blocks in a playoff game since the late Reggie Lewis.
"We're so much more of a dynamic team when D-White is asserting himself and being aggressive and not being passive." Tatum said. "These last two games [White] being aggressive, making the right play, attacking the rim and not necessarily waiting makes us that much more of a better team."
The Celtics are now 27-6 this season (including the playoffs) when White scores 15 points or more, something that Boston will clearly need moving forward as they seek to make a return to the NBA Finals.
"[Tatum and Brown] get a lot of attention. It just opens up the court for myself," White said Tuesday night. "When the opportunity is there I just have to attack and do what I do."
It's not a surprise that one of the top teams in the East and in the league with championship aspirations don't just rely on their stars, but has a deep enough roster to have players like White that can take over a game when called upon.
"That's the beauty of being on a great team," Brown said to reporters after Game 2. "To be able to have multiple threats out there. To be able to play the game in different ways and win in different ways. Tonight was an example of that. D-White just exploded. And on any given night, it could be anybody. So, we just got to encourage that."
The Celtics and their depth will look to extend their best-of-7 series lead to 3-0 when they travel to Atlanta for Game 3 come Friday.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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