Monday, May 29, 2023

Derrick White on his Game 6 winning putback to save Celtics season: 'It felt good'

Game 7 is perhaps the two greatest words in sports, as the Celtics get another opportunity to make NBA history following a Derrick White buzzer beating putback against the Miami Heat.

After trailing 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the C's are the fourth team in the league's 75 years of existence to erase the deficit and force a winner-take-all game.

White, who began the final play as an in-bounder, passed the ball to Marcus Smart for a contested 3-point attempt in the closing seconds of Game 6.
"I was passing it in," White said Saturday night. "[Gabe] Vincent was on me and he was up top denying [Jayson Tatum] so I couldn't get him the ball. They did a good job of denying [Jaylen Brown] too. Smart flashed, I hit him, and there really was nobody on me."
Once the ball was inbounds, he slide to the corner in case Smart needed to get a pass off. When he saw Smart go for the jumper, he sprinted into the paint un-guarded and tipped the ball in with 0.1 seconds remaining.
"It felt good," White said. "Everybody was asking me 'Did you get it off?' I was like yeah, I think so, but it was so close you never know."
White's tip-in ended up being the go-ahead basket, giving the Celtics an improbable 104-103 victory, setting up a potential history making Game 7 for the second straight year, but this time at TD Garden.
"Derrick White, like a flash of lightning, just came out of nowhere and saved the day, man. It was just an incredible play," said Celtics wing Jaylen Brown during his postgame presser.
With White's putback buzzer-beater, it's the second as such in NBA playoff history, the sixth buzzer-beater overall in an elimination game, and it's just the second buzzer-beating shot in league history where the team facing elimination trailed prior to the final attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The other player to make a buzzer-beating shot under such circumstances was Michael Jordan, who made his now legendary off-balance mid-range jumper in the deciding Game 5 of the Chicago Bulls' first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 1989 -- simply known as "the shot."

Boston, who has won three straight, will look to become the first NBA team to come back from being down 3-0 in a best-of-7 and clinch the series.
"[It was] faith, love, togetherness, physicality, belief, hope, all those things combined," C's coach Joe Mazzulla said to reporters. "But it starts with the locker room. Those guys had a choice to make, and they chose to believe in each other."
Trust has been a factor all season when it comes to this current Celtics roster, especially for White -- who has been in and out of the starting lineup throughout the playoffs -- and now he's reaping the rewards of being unselfish with a buzzer-beating tip to extend the series against the Heat once more.
 "If you've been around us all season, you see how close this locker room is. We're always joking around," White said. "Everybody is getting along. When times are tough, it's easy to kind of point the fingers. But we just stuck together and cared for each other and we've got one more game to go."
While Jayson Tatum says White's putback left him speechless at first, he almost immediately felt a sense of relief knowing the Celtics have another shot and in front of their home fans to complete something special.
"We kept fighting," Tatum said in his postgame comments. "We're down, but not out. We've got another chance. I'll go to war with every guy in that locker room as it shows. We've got a big one on Monday."
Game 7 is tonight on Memorial Day, as TNT as the tip-off at 8:30 ET. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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