Derrick White's excellent two-way performance led Celtics to Game 5 win
BOSTON -- The Celtics officially made the Eastern Conference Finals a series again Thursday night, pulling to within 3-2 of the Heat with a convincing 110-97 win over Miami at TD Garden. While Jayson Tatum flirted with a triple double and Jaylen Brown got his groove back, it was Derrick White who provided most of the fireworks for the Celtics.
White turned in an excellent two-way performance in Game 5, torching Miami with his shooting and extinguishing the Heat offense with some stellar defense on Jimmy Butler. The Celtics guard led all scorers with 24 points, connecting on eight of his 11 shots from the floor.
Boston never trailed in Game 5, thanks in large part to an explosive start from White. He hit three of his six 3-pointers in the first quarter, including a step-back over Max Strus as the buzzer sounded on the frame. That extended the C's lead to 35-20, and sent the TD Garden crowd into a frenzy.
It seemed like any time the Heat made a little run to cut into Boston's lead, White was there to make things comfortable again. When a Butler and-1 cut the C's lead to 12 points with three minutes left in the second, White answered with a long-distance strike to push the lead back up to 15.
The Heat were essentially welcoming White to be the guy to burn them, and made them pay. He was aggressive with his shot and knocked down six of his eight 3-point attempts on Thursday.
"They got a lot of focus us on JB, JT, so they're always empowering me to shoot when I'm open and I was able to find some openings and knock them down," he said humbly.
White's teammates were a little more excited about the 28-year-old's performance.
"Yeah, big-time player, big-time shots tonight," Brown said of White's outburst. "D-White came ready to play. As soon as they gave him any space, he let it fly, and he got hot from downtown."
White has been white-hot from 3-point range in Boston's back-to-back wins, hitting 58.1 percent of his threes. With Miami's attention focused elsewhere, White has shot over 42 percent from downtown for the series. After Thursday night's performance, he's now shooting 47.9 percent from deep for the playoffs, which is the best mark of all players remaining in the playoffs.
He needs to continued to be aggressive for the Celtics to be the best version of themselves. But White's offense only paints half the picture of his impact on the team.
He also flummoxed Jimmy Butler throughout Game 5, holding the Heat star to just 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting. That was a series-low for Butler, who averaged 27 points over the first four games of the series.
"Yeah, D-White, Second Team All-Defense this year for a reason," said Tatum. "He's a big part of our team, our identity, things we try and do on the defensive end. He's a very smart basketball player on both ends, and his awareness, his instincts, they showed tonight."
"His aggressiveness is key," said Brown. "They try to put him into matchups at times, and his ability to be able to block shots, chase guys off shooters, guard the best player, get out in transition, that's the greatest shot. That's really key for our team."
White wasn't credited with any blocks on Thursday, but he was able to disrupt a few shots at the rim. He was also a part of Boston's thievery, coming up with two of the team's 13 steals on the evening.
Now White and the Celtics have to keep it all going Saturday night in Miami. They didn't quit or give up on each other after an embarrassing Game 3 loss in South Beach, and will continue to fight for each other when they return to Miami for Game 6.
"We've got a lot of love for each other, top to bottom. We're out there competing, and we know it's a long way to go, and we've got a lot of work to do, but it's always fun competing with the guys in our locker room," said White.
"It's going to be a grind," he said of Game 6. "They're going to come back and play well. The crowd is going to be in it. It's not going to be easy. It's going to take 48 minutes of battling, scratching, clawing, and we've got to find a way to win."
If White continues to be his aggressive self on both ends of the floor, the Celtics will have a great shot to accomplish the impossible against Miami.
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