Losing myself during Game 6 — and Derrick White saving all Boston Celtics fans

Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, or "The DWhite Game" will go down in history as bonkers and the Boston Celtics win where I almost lost my marbles Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, or "The DWhite Game" will go down in history as bonkers and the Boston Celtics win where I almost lost my marbles Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

I can’t speak to the exact feeling, but I imagine that the last three minutes of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Heat approximated the feeling of having a maximally invasive surgery with no anesthesia.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of all the things I found myself doing during that stretch:

– Adjusting my position on the lucky couch cushion to maximize luck-boost
– Seeing my smart-watch inform me that it sensed I was stressed before asking if I was okay
– Involuntarily screaming, “NO!!!” when anyone on the Miami Heat hit a three
– Becoming legitimately afraid of Jimmy Butler
– Began mentally writing this article about the loss after Jimmy Butler made three of the most clutch free throws I have ever seen, saying how… “It shall hence be known that Jimmy Butler is the greatest clutch performer who hast ever walked this earth. Despite a positively horrific game, he emerged to put the behooved Celtics on ice when he needed to. All respect to our new king, Sir Jimmith Butlerius, the mother of drag…”

But now the three minutes is up, and we’re down to only three seconds. Derrick White inbounds to Marcus Smart, who takes a quick turnaround… it’s off, we lost—but White comes out of nowhere and puts it back in! Did we win? I don’t think he got it. Did he get it? (Replay Starts) DID HE GET IT? (See’s it counted) HE GOT IT! HE GOT IT OFF! DWHITE SAVED US! HE SAVED THE SEASON!

I hugged my dad. I hugged my dog. I collapsed on the floor and started laughing. I couldn’t believe it. We won, we actually won! The Boston Celtics lose that game every single time, and Jimmy Butler wins it every single time.

Thankfully for the content of this article, I managed to remain conscious of all of that, but for anyone who blacked out for the last three minutes of Game 6, the Boston Celtics won. Everyone calm down. Everybody chill. We’re okay.

I don’t have a word to describe what that was, so here’s 14: That was the craziest, wildest, heart-wrenching…est, and panic inducing-est Celtics game I have ever watched. It was bananas. Nuts. Soul-crushing. Stupid. Glorious. Terrifying. Hilarious. Super weird. Totally awesome. Completely insane.

If you remember the tragedy of Game 2, I made sure that we all took a deep breath before thinking any harder. But Game 6 was a whole new level of bonkers, so let’s all take six. Now, let’s try to unpack this without fainting.

Let’s start with our hero and savior: Mr. Derrick White himself. It’s pretty funny that Game 5 was going to be known as “The DWhite Game” due to his heroic scoring performance, but cancel the parade and tear down the plaques.

Game 6 shall henceforth be known as “The DWhite Game.”

With three seconds left, the Cs got the first real glimpse of elimination. Sure, they’d won five prior elimination games, but all of those had been more-or-less wrapped up with three or more minutes to go. I really didn’t think this team could find a way to have their backs even more against the wall, but here we are.

But as Smart launched his prayer, the Boston Celtics weren’t the only ones watching their lives flash before their eyes. Max Strus, for one, saw his hopes of playing in the NBA Finals floating on Smart’s missed shot and was presumably entranced by its beauty. He was so entranced that he forgot to box out DWhite, who had put on his metaphorical blindfold and earplugs and acted on primal instinct.

When the shot was in the air, I was disappointed. I had spent the time out deciding that I was ready to live and die with Jayson Tatum taking the last shot. I selfishly wanted him to assert himself and win it not only for the team but for his own legacy. But as it turned out, we didn’t need a guy like Tatum. We needed DWhite.

Because DWhite is not Jayson Tatum. He was never the prodigal son of a city, nor was he even anyone’s gold-star recruit coming out of high school. He played Division II basketball for three years, initially not even with a scholarship. DWhite clawed his way into the NBA by working harder than the other nine guys on the court, not with any innate physical traits or shot-making ability.

As the ball clanked off the cup, I’d imagine that White didn’t even hear the bounce. I’d imagine he didn’t hear the crowd either, nor Kevin Harlan’s play-by-play. And while I can’t know for sure, I like to think that all DWhite could hear the voice of his youth basketball coaches who believed in him when no one else did, saying “Go get that ball Derrick! Go get that ball!”

So he snaked around the enchanted Strus and got the ball, and became the hero of millions of Celtics fans.

I wanted to give DWhite every letter he deserved, but beyond his total awesomeness, Game 6 was an out-of-body experience. I have witnessed the Boston Celtics blow that exact game what feels like 700 times this season, and I have seen the Heat win it 701 times. I still believed but felt horrible.

Here’s the usual story: up seven entering the fourth, yet it still somehow feels like someone else is in the driver’s seat. I had a pit in my stomach. Then we were up ten. Yay! Now it’s seven again…and four…and so on. The Cs walk it up in no rush to do anything about it, and suddenly Duncan Robinson is spotting up for three with the closest Boston defender in Waltham.

But he missed. And then he missed again. The Heat—who seriously could not miss from three all night—couldn’t get one when they absolutely needed it. Yet something felt fishy. I had seen that movie before, and I could have sworn those shots usually go in. The Heat were no longer just knocking on the door, they brought a battering ram.

And while Butler all but won the game with his clutch free throws, the Heat had a thousand chances to run away with it in the fourth quarter. But somehow, the Celtics staved off every assault, albeit with a black eye and several more broken bones each time.

From both missed Robinson three-balls to Jaylen Brown converting the most complicated four-point play in NBA history—known colloquially as the (inhales) rim-hanging-goaltend-and-the-foul-and-also-a-technical-foul—coming right after the Heat had taken their first lead since early in the first quarter. Or my personal favorite: Al Horford swatting Bam Adebayo’s hook like it was a fruit fly coming for his bowl of plums and it’s plum season so these are valuable. That block came with 7:17 to play and punched a potential Heat rally in the mouth.

Every time Miami looked to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics dug deep and found an answer. But they kept punching, and by the time Smart took the final shot, they had dug so deep for these answers that all they had left was a miracle.

Of course, none of that even considers that Game 6 was a massive statistical anomaly. Remember when I said after Game 3 that it is impossible to win a basketball game when you shoot almost 30% worse from beyond the arc? Yeah, well the Celtics went 7/35, with only Smart and DWhite making even a single three-ball, and the Heat shot a whole 26.7% better than the C’s. What.

Apparently what I didn’t consider after Game 3 was the possibility that the team with the massive three-point advantage could not buy a two-pointer, but in Game 6 the Heat defied the laws of physics once again and somehow managed to go a historically horrendous 19-63 from two-point land, which honestly… just sucks.

But beyond the math, beyond the total freak-outs, and even beyond the glory of DWhite, the Celtics fought back. Down 3-0, they decided they weren’t out. They refused to be out. Immortality is one win away, but fighting back against the narrative that this team was dead has already been accomplished, and that’s really something.

The Boston Celtics excised demons in shocking Game 6 buzzer-beating win

Maybe I do have one word to describe this game: an exorcism. The Celtics proved they could win a close game, even against the man, the myth, and the cyborg in Butler. And even when it felt like he had thrown the Celtics out of the house and slammed the door, White brought his own battering ram and said no.

One more game. Chips down, and bets off. Let’s go get it.