In their Oct. 27 home opener against the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics saw all five starters score double-digit points en route to a 119-111 victory. Four of Boston’s starters have made an All-Star team, and three achieved the feat last season. However, none of those four led the C’s in scoring Friday night.
It was Derrick White who stole the show.
White led the way with 28 points on 9/15 shooting from the field and 5/7 shooting from three. The All-Defensive guard also gave Jimmy Butler fits all night long. White blocked Butler three different times in the contest, holding the future Hall-of-Famer to just 14 points on 3/11 shooting.
In the fourth quarter, White sent TD Garden into a frenzy with 14 points of his own. Fueled by three crucial 3-pointers, the former Spur put the Boston Celtics on his back. Down 90-88, White went on a personal 8-0 run in less than two minutes. He scored three straight buckets to give Boston a 96-90 lead, which eventually led to a win for the home team.
White’s two-way brilliance shouldn’t come as a surprise to NBA fans. After all, the 29-year-old combo guard made the All-Defensive Second Team last season. White led the league in blocks among guards, totaling 76 rejections in 82 games. His elite rim protection was on full display against the Heat as he shut down Butler.
After his performance, White spoke with Cassidy Hubbarth of ESPN in his on-court interview. White emphasized the importance of a defensive mindset against a team like the Heat.
“That’s what it’s all about on the defensive end. They’re a tough team to guard. They make you work for 48 minutes, so I knew if we wanted to win, we had to do it on this end … I got some good looks and knocked them down on the other end.”
Derrick White gave Boston Celtics fans spectacular show during home opener
All in all, White put on an absolute show for the home fans. He treated Bostonians to a plethora of jaw-dropping plays, none more incredible than his second chase-down block on Butler in the closing minutes of the ballgame.
Head coach Joe Mazzulla had great things to say about White in his postgame press conference.
"“The plays he made tonight were sick. They were just sick plays. It’s the only way you can describe it… He has the humility to do what’s best for the team, and when his number is called, he shows up regardless of what has happened. That’s big for us.”"
Having logged 68 minutes through two contests, White seems primed for his most playing time ever. Last season, the Colorado native notched 17.5 points per game across 34 games with 30-plus minutes. He has never averaged 30 minutes for an entire regular season, but his opportunity to change that has arrived.
Through the first two games of the season, White has averaged 20.0 points on 61.9% shooting from the field and 60.0% shooting from three. He also holds the league’s eighth-best true shooting percentage so far with an incredible 78.7% mark.
All-NBA teammate Jayson Tatum commented on White’s growing confidence in his postgame presser.
"“I think his confidence level just continues to rise. You know, as he’s gotten more comfortable with us and in his own skin … the talent has always been there, he’s starting to show more emotion … D-White was big for us tonight on both ends of the floor.”"
Playing next to some of his most talented teammates ever, White should continue to thrive in Boston’s revamped offense as the season progresses. In his postgame presser, the former Division II hooper talked about his role as the point guard for the Celtics.
"“I’m the point guard. I’ve been here a couple years, so I know where people are supposed to be at … That’s what I’m trying to do, just trying to get people in the right spots … Just more and more comfortable with where I’m at.”"
Oozing with confidence, White seems primed for a breakout 2023-24 campaign. After leading the Boston Celtics to sweet revenge against the squad that knocked them out of the playoffs, White will look to continue his fine form for as long as possible.