BOSTON – On Friday night, the Boston Celtics needed their role players to step up. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford were all out, leaving Jayson Tatum to carry the load in the scoring column.
And while the superstar did manage to pour in 41 points, it was Derrick White who stole the show, picking up the slack in a big way for Boston. After retooling his shot this summer, the work he put in was on full display.
“He doesn’t have to pay attention to get his feet set,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “[He] does a great job with just – when he’s open, shoot it. And so he has to be aggressive for our team to be well-balanced and successful. When he’s aggressive on both ends, we’re a good team.”
White scored a career-high 33 points in the 127-116 win over the Charlotte Hornets, adding ten assists on top of it. He shot 12-of-19 from the field and 8-of-14 from distance. In the process, he tied a Celtics franchise record for most threes made in the first half (7).
And if that weren’t enough, he also blocked three shots, adding to his impressive defensive resume this season. In turn, he became the first player in NBA history to record at least 10 assists, make at least eight threes, and block at least three shots in a single game.
White even encroached upon another Celtics record. His eight threes were just three away from Marcus Smart’s record-setting 11, and Smart didn’t hesitate to let White know about it.
“Every time I shot it, it felt great,” White said. “The guys were up supporting me, cheering me on. Smart was worried about his record. And it was all just fun and games.”
Tatum’s 41 points led the way for Boston, but White was the team’s unquestioned leader in the first half. His career night was spearheaded by a 26-point first half, as White came just three points shy of matching his previous career-high (29 points) before halftime. He made his first eight shots of the game, including his first six threes.
His red-hot shooting fueled the Celtics all night long, but White made an impact all over the court. Even when Charlotte made a late-game run, White was there to make timely plays. An inbound assist, a late-game steal, and a clutch bucket in the paint in the fourth all highlighted an incredible night for the 28-year-old.
Despite getting the proverbial green light, White was committed to playing the right way, and it helped the Celtics secure a win.
“When I made the first four, you kind of get the green light to do whatever you want at that moment,” White said with a smile. “But I still kind of tried not to just take shots outside of the offense and whatnot. So, shoutout to the guys for finding me, and I just knocked them down.”
Throughout his tenure in Boston, White has taken on many roles. With Smart out, he was thrown into the start into the starting point guard spot and delivered when it mattered.
The win over Charlotte marked the one-year anniversary of White’s trade to the Celtics, so there couldn’t have been a more fitting night for his stunning performance.
It’s safe to say that White has found a home in Boston.
“I feel like I’ve been here forever even though it’s only been one year,” said White. “This year, [I’m] just a lot more settled in. Compared to a year ago today when life kind of just changed in an instant. So, I gotta say, I love being here, and it’s just been fun playing with this team.”