Beantown Rundown: Derrick White’s standout play is making Celtics nearly invincible against Hawks

The Boston Celtics entered the 2023 NBA Playoffs largely believing that they would be playing the Miami Heat in their first-round series. Instead, the Atlanta Hawks upset them in their Play-In Tournament contest, and many folks believed Boston lucked out. Two games into their series, that has mostly been the case, but they also owe a lot of their success to the continued standout play of Derrick White.

The Celtics have raced out to a 2-0 lead in this series, and have been in complete control for all but the first six minutes of Game 2 when the Hawks jumped out to a 22-11 lead. By the time the first quarter was over, Boston had stomped out Atlanta’s rally in the same way Draymond Green stomped on Domantas Sabonis’ chest, carrying a 28-25 lead into the second quarter.

White wasn’t single-handedly responsible for that run, or any of Boston’s runs really, but his continued strong play has very nearly made the Celtics indestructible against a Hawks team that already had a minimal chance of beating them in this series. And if White can continue to play at this extremely high level, it makes an already dangerous C’s team that much more dangerous to beat in the playoffs.

Derrick White’s emergence proving to be a huge help for the Celtics

When looking at the Boston Celtics 2022-23 squad, it looks like the hierarchy is Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and then the rest of the Celtics incredible team full of depth. But when looking at Basketball-Reference’s Win Shares metric (which estimates the amount of wins a player contributes to), Tatum leads the way with 10.5 but in second is White with 7.4.

Admittedly, win shares can be a bit of a faulty metric, but it goes to show how important Derrick White has been for the Celtics this season on both sides of the court. With Marcus Smart having a bit of an up-and-down season, White established himself as Boston’s top guard on offense and defense. And now that the playoffs underway, he’s showcasing this to the entire world.

The Celtics dealt with their fair share of injuries late in January, which is when White’s role expanded, and ever since then, he’s been phenomenal. His per game averages since January 24th (16 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.3 RPG, 48.2 FG%) are extremely good, especially considering how he’s splitting minutes in the backcourt with Smart and Malcolm Brogdon.

Through two games against the Hawks, though, you can make a case that White has been the Celtics best player. It’s only two games, but in those two games, White has played like a superstar (25 PPG, 6 RPG, 4.5 APG, 62.1 FG%, 50 3P%). Boston already has two superstars on their team in Tatum and Brown, but with White playing at this level, Boston’s ceiling gets raised exponentially.

Against Atlanta, White has been doing it all for the Celtics. On offense, he’s been a steadying presence, as he almost never turns the ball over, and can either get a quick bucket when needed, or find a teammate who can. In Game 2, White pretty much guaranteed Atlanta wouldn’t make a comeback when he scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. That’s superstar caliber play.

On defense, White is also playing a massive role in slowing down the Hawks best offensive player in Trae Young. White has spent the most time as the Celtics primary defender on Young, and he’s been absolutely clamping him. Young’s stats through two games with White guarding him (14 PTS, 9 AST, 3 TO, 5-17 FGM) are ugly, and it goes to show just how good White is playing right now.

It’s not a stretch to say that White is playing like a superstar early on in the playoffs. Whether or not that continues on a per game basis remains to be seen, because Boston hasn’t really had to exert much effort to beat Atlanta in Games 1 & 2. But considering the production Boston received from White in the 2022 NBA Playoffs last year (8.5 PPG, 3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 36.4 FG%, 31.3 3P%) they don’t necessarily need him to be playing at this extremely high level to be better than they were last season.

The Celtics will be challenged, whether it be from the Hawks or another team later on down the line, in much greater fashion than they have been early on in these first two games. In got-to-have-it situations late in games, the ball is obviously going to be in the hands of Tatum or Brown. But through two games, White has proven that, if need be, he can be a guy who can lead Boston to big-time wins.

White will still be battling Smart and Brogdon for minutes, and head coach Joe Mazzulla has the luxury of riding whichever one of these guys ends up getting hot, but as of right now, White looks like the Celtics third-most important player behind Tatum and Brown. Derrick White has been awesome for Boston so far, and if he can keep this up, there’s no reason to believe that this team can’t go all the way and win a title this season.

The post Beantown Rundown: Derrick White’s standout play is making Celtics nearly invincible against Hawks appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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