Celtics’ Derrick White comes up clutch with ‘sick plays’ against Heat in crunch time


“He’s consistent and he wants to win.”

Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) puts up a three over Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the fourth quarter. - The Boston Celtics host the Miami Heat in the team’s home season opener on October 27, 2023 at TD Garden in Boston, MA.
Derrick White scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter on Friday night. Barry Chin / The Boston Globe
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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At least that tends to be the case whenever the Celtics take on a scrappy Miami Heat team.

Boston’s roster has changed plenty over the last few months, with lineup fixtures like Marcus Smart, Rob Williams, Grant Williams, and Malcolm Brogdon all donning different jerseys this fall.

But Friday’s rematch of a crushing 2023 Eastern Conference Finals defeat for Boston followed a similar script, in most respects.

The Heat, who shot 43.4 percent from 3-point range over that seven-game slugfest, connected on 16 of their 34 attempts (47.1 percent) from beyond the arc on Friday.

And Derrick White once again made Miami pay time and time again in the fourth quarter.

In his second game as Boston’s new starting point guard, White delivered in crunch time to help his team beat the Heat, 119-111. The 29-year-old guard scored 14 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, including nine straight points to open the final frame.

That scoring salvo flipped what was an 88-87 Miami lead into a 96-90 advantage for Boston, giving the Celtics a lead that it did not relinquish for the rest of the night.

White may not be the flashiest player on a stacked Celtics roster already featuring four other All-Star talents in the starting lineup in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, and Jrue Holiday.

But the versatile guard has the skillset to impact a game in several ways, adding six rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocks over his 36 minutes of action on Friday.

“I mean, he’s a competitor,” Joe Mazzulla said postgame of White’s contributions. “He’s consistent, and he wants to win. And I mean, like the plays he made tonight were sick. Like they were just sick plays. Like, it’s the only word you can describe it. That’s just what he does.”

Mazzulla’s postgame praise was likely centered on White’s chase-down block against Jimmy Butler with under four minutes to go in regulation — keeping what was a seven-point lead intact amid a back-and-forth scoring exchange between both veteran teams.

For all of the concerns of Boston’s defensive identity eroding following the departures of Smart, Rob Williams, and Grant Williams, a backcourt duo of White and Holiday should assuage some of those fears.

Holiday posted a highlight-reel block of his own against Jaime Jaquez Jr. in the third quarter, while also chipping in with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists of his own.

“He does so many little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” White said postgame of Holiday’s contributions. “It just helps us win games.”

It’s only natural for a player with White’s profile to slip under the radar, especially on a Celtics roster as deep as this one. 

But given White’s growing reputation as an offensive spark and defensive stopper, there’s plenty of value in being the “glue” guy on a team with title aspirations.

Not bad for a guy on the outside looking in at ESPN’s Top 100 rankings.

“He has the humility to do what’s best for the team,” Mazzulla said of White’s game. “And when his numbers called, he shows up — regardless of what’s happened. And that’s big for us.

But each guy out there today made tough plays. And I think the cool thing is we can get so much better tactically on both ends of the floor. But as long as we do it together and do it with toughness, we’ve got a chance.”