Catching bodies and cashing threes: Inside Derrick White’s career night in Game 4

Apr 29, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) celebrates a Celtics lead
Apr 29, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) celebrates a Celtics lead / Michael Laughlin-USA TODAY Sports

On a night when the Boston Celtics shot 41.9% from the field and scored just 102 points, Derrick White hid his team’s offensive struggles with an absolute masterclass; stealing the show with the greatest scoring performance of his career. 

White torched the Miami Heat for 38 points to put the Celtics up 3-1 in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. The All-Defensive point guard also notched three blocks, three assists, and four rebounds. He shot 15/26 from the field and an incredible 8/15 from three.

After the game, Jayson Tatum praised White’s incredible performance in his on-court interview.

"Man, he’s special. We’ve got a really special team. On any given night, somebody (else) can be the leading scorer. It just shows the depth, the talent, and the awareness of our team."

Jayson Tatum

Through four games in the first round, White has averaged 21.8 points on 56.9% shooting from the field with an effective field goal percentage of 70.7%. He has nailed 47.1% of his 3-pointers and 100% of his free throws, leading to a ridiculous 72.3% true shooting mark.

White spent most of the night carving up Miami’s defense with a barrage of 3-pointers, but his marquee moment came when he threw down two poster dunks on back-to-back possessions. White showed serious bounce as he put two Heat players on a poster before following it up with a sweet jam on Bam Adebayo. 

From his long-range brilliance to his two-way excellence, White put his skills on full display for a stunned Kaseya Center crowd. Flashbacks of White’s iconic Game 6 buzzer-beater from last year’s conference finals may have crept into the minds of some Heat fans in the arena.

Unlike last year, Boston has had the upper hand on the Heat all series long. Despite Miami’s record-breaking shooting night in Game 2, the Celtics have held the Heat to 94.3 points per game across four contests. 

The dynamic defensive backcourt of White and Jrue Holiday, also known as “The Stock Exchange,” has limited the offensive output of Miami’s guards throughout the series. After averaging 20.8 points during the regular season, Tyler Herro has mustered just 17.3 points per game on 40.7% shooting from the field.

In his postgame press conference, White credited head coach Joe Mazzulla for the confidence he has displayed during his breakout 2023-24 season.

"It starts with Joe (Mazzulla). Ever since he took over, he’s just given me the most confidence. I can talk to him, he can talk to me. That relationship is just getting better and better each day. It’s amazing to play for him, I love it."

Derrick White

Along with Mazzulla, Boston’s star players have empowered White to play aggressive-minded basketball all season. In his postgame presser, Tatum talked more about White’s impact on the team when he plays with his highest level of confidence.

"When he's being aggressive, it just opens everything up … It really makes us very, very hard to guard. You want everyone to be assertive, be aggressive, and try to make plays It just makes us a better team."

Jayson Tatum

With the Celtics losing Kristaps Porzingis to an apparent calf injury in the first half, White might need to continue to carry a larger workload moving forward. According to NBA insider Shams Charania, initial tests indicated that Porzingis’ injury is a calf issue and “potentially a strain.” This kind of injury could keep Porzingis on the sidelines until the Eastern Conference Finals, which would not be the worst-case scenario for a non-contact injury.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown took a back seat to White last game, but they will need to shoot better than their combined 12/32 performance as a duo. Neither of the Jays has found their peak rhythm yet in these playoffs, but the superstar wings have allowed supporting players like White to thrive and help the 64-win title favorites build a commanding lead against their long-time rivals.

White made some Celtics history with his Game 4 performance as he became the first Celtic since Ray Allen in 2010 to hit six threes in a playoff half. In addition, White scored the second-most points ever in a playoff game for a player without a single free throw attempt. Only Chuck Person scored more in 1991.

White also became the first-ever Celtic to post 38 points, three blocks, and eight threes in a playoff game. In fact, he is only the third player in NBA history to record such a stat line in the playoffs.

If Porzingis misses extended time for Boston, White will step into a new role as a clear third option. Based on White's Game 4 performance, Celtics fans shouldn’t worry about his ability to fill that larger role.

White, who has become a fan favorite among the Celtics faithful, has played with a newfound swagger all season long. His sky-high confidence could serve as the ultimate X-Factor for Boston throughout these playoffs.

"I'm just having fun out there ... Competing at the highest level on the biggest stages, that's what it's all about."

Derrick White