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Derrick White’s ‘new dad energy’ helped the Celtics earn a much-needed win

After missing Game 3 because of the birth of his son, White harnessed his dad powers when the Celtics needed him most.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Miami Heat v Boston Celtics Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Derrick White took a page out of Fred VanVleet’s book on Monday night.

When the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship in 2019, he stepped up big in The Finals. The series prior, VanVleet welcomed his second child. So, when he outperformed expectations in The Finals, people began to credit his “dad strength.” White channeled that same strength in Game 4 against the Miami Heat.

White missed Game 3 of the series due to the birth of his first child, Hendrix James White. So, when DPOY Marcus Smart was ruled out with an ankle sprain in Game 4, expectations for White were raised. And with the help of some dad strength, he delivered, helping lead the Boston Celtics to a series-leveling win.

When asked about having this “new dad energy” during his post-game interview, White couldn’t help but smile, saying that he “hopes so.” He also mentioned how amazing it’s been being a dad for the first time.

He’s been a super blessing to myself and my family. I can’t wait to go home and see him and just hold him. I mean, it’s cool just to just to watch him. And I’m excited to see how he grows.

Despite not shooting particularly well, White played a big part in Boston’s 102-82 win over the Heat. He played the most minutes on the team (40:52) and was crucial to their plans on both sides of the ball. After the game, head coach Ime Udoka explained how important White is, even when he’s not hitting shots at an efficient clip.

He’s been great. A part-time starter when guys are out. He checks so many boxes for us, and like I said, it’s not only things that show up on the stat sheet or the scoring. He’s a guy that moves the ball extremely well, defends extremely well, multiple positions.

The 27-year-old shot 4-for-14 from the field and 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line. However, White started out hot. He scored the first seven points of the game, helping Boston earn an early 7-0 lead. White was super aggressive, constantly picking his spots in the middle of the floor.

He talked about this attack mindset after the game, saying that it was his plan — no matter what, he knew he had to be aggressive.

I said this morning, ‘if I was gonna fail, I’m gonna do it aggressively and just try to get back to how I play.’ Obviously, got off to a good start and just tried to keep going for 48 minutes.

While he hasn’t been a consistent shooter this year, White has thrived when getting into the teeth of the defense. In the first quarter, he sought out driving lanes and made things happen by forcing the issue.

All four of White’s made field came in the first quarter, but he continued to help the team long after he stopped hitting shots. White finished the game with eight rebounds and six assists to go along with his 13 points. He also nabbed three steals and a block, making his presence felt all over the court.

According to White, his great play resulted from his teammate’s encouragement. Filling in for Smart, White had some big shoes to fill. He said the team just kept telling him to just be himself. They didn’t want him to replace Smart. They wanted him to be the best version of Derrick.

You kind of get thrown in the middle the year… Trying not to step on any toes, which kind of sets you back personally. So, from time to time, you just kind of step back. But the team has done a great job of just being like, ‘nah, just be you.’ Smart said to me this morning. Rob says it, like, I just gotta do that. So, that makes it a lot easier.

White’s six assists led the team. His teammates’ encouragement came full circle, as he was able to set them up for easy baskets. Robert Williams’ say in that matter paid off with this sweet lob in the third quarter.

However, White also had to issue Williams an apology before the game, as the big man’s son is also named Hendrix. While White said that he picked the name out before ever getting traded to Boston, it’s still a funny coincidence, as White’s reasoning was that it’s “unique.”

After the contest, Williams told the media that White came up to him before the game and apologized. Williams couldn’t help but smile as he discussed the situation.

That’s the first thing he told me when he seen me. He just kind of walked up to me like, ‘hey bro, I ain’t... I’m sorry.’ But you know, it’s a nice name, so.

Regardless of names, it’s clear that dad strength is a real thing. Williams racked up 12 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in Game 4. His defensive presence helped shut down the Heat after they exploded for 127 points in Game 3.

White and Williams harnessed the power of the Hendrix’s, but instead of a killer guitar solo, they used it to even up the series against the Heat. And unfortunately for “Jimi” Butler, the Hendrix name worked against him.

Game 5 will take place this Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST. Hopefully White didn’t use up all of his new dad strength quite yet, because the Celtics could use it some more as they attempt to take their first lead of the series.

And for what it’s worth, White’s been preparing to be a dad for a while now: