“I’ll tell you one thing, man, if you don’t know who D-White is, you know who he is now,” said Marcus Smart.
With their backs against the wall on Saturday night, the Boston Celtics crumbled. They slowly choked away a double-digit lead over the last 4:56 of the game. And with three seconds left on the clock, they found themselves down one to the Miami Heat.
That’s when Derrick White came to the rescue.
Boston inbounded the ball, Smart threw up a heave, and after the ball bounced off the rim and out, White was there for the put-back layup, sealing a Celtics victory.
“It all happened so fast,” said Jaylen Brown. “I couldn’t really tell. Smart shot it and I thought it was good. And then Derrick White, like a flash of lightning, just came out of nowhere and saved the day, man. It was just an incredible play.”
The Celtics have struggled in close games all year, and in this one, it never should have come down to that. They were in control the whole night, but as has become a common theme, they fell apart in the final few minutes.
But it didn’t matter. White made sure it didn’t matter.
“It don’t do no good to stand in the corner there, whether he makes it or not,” White said. “So, I was just crashing the glass, and it came right to me.”
Boston was 0.2 seconds away from booking flights to Cancun and beginning their offseason regimen.
Now, they’re one win away from history.
“I’m still in disbelief. That s*** was crazy,” said Jayson Tatum. “But I’m glad we got another chance, another opportunity. It’s far from over. Still an uphill battle. But it feels good to give yourself another chance. Another opportunity.”
White has made it his mission to elevate his game in the postseason. He earned MVP chants from TD Garden against the Atlanta Hawks, he’s shot 47.5% from three throughout the playoffs, and in Game 5 against Miami, he co-led the Celtics’ offense with Smart.
At every turn, the 28-year-old from Parker, Colorado, has made his mark. Yet his humble demeanor refuses to let him get too high.
“We’re just happy we won,” White said. “However we got to get it done, we got it done. And now it’s on to Game 7.”
White’s name will be plastered across the internet until the start of Game 7 because of his incredible tip-in, but the journey that got him there should be the bigger story.
He was cut from his eighth-grade basketball team and had just one collegiate offer coming out of high school (from a DII program), yet he kept pushing through every obstacle that came his way.
And despite all of his success, he’s still the same, Oreo-loving, family-first guy he’s always been.
“It’s going to be a little crazy,” White said of the reaction to his game-winner. “My phone’s already blowing up. But [I’ll] get home tomorrow [and] play with Hendrix. I’m sure he won’t look at me any differently. So, that’ll be cool.”
When Boston was down 3-0, rumors swirled of their downfall. Reports indicating their disdain for one another dominated headlines. But they powered through.
And just when it looked like all of their perseverance would be for not, White was there, just as he has been all season.
“That dude has been phenomenal for us this whole, whole year,” said Smart. “Just playing the way that we knew he could play when we picked him up. And it’s been refreshing for us. It’s been a joy to watch and a joy to be on the court with him.”