USA About: Celtics Publish: 05/24/2022 Edit: 05/24/2022 Author: Gardener
Derrick White (center) scored the first 7 points of the game and the Celtics were on the run. The Celtics' landslide victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals -- a "contest" in name only -- was also a Gino-esque victory dance for Brad Stevens, the president of basketball's first year operations, and his prized pickup. It showed Steven's vision and the depth of the roster he assembled and then renewed at the close by making the very un-Danny Ainge-esque decision to grant a pair of first-round picks in a deal to acquire point guard Derrick put white by the San Antonio Spurs. Don't forget the importance of the Celtics winning the big men's battle in Game 4. Say hello to White and Stevens for the Celtics ensemble's 102-82 triumph Monday night that even sent the series back to South Florida as a best-of-three affair. The trade to acquire White never looked better than with him admirably filling in for heart-and-soul Marcus Smart, who was doing hors de hoops with a right ankle injury he sustained in Game 3 had drawn, in a game that you absolutely have to win. Like the man he replaced, White's influence extended beyond the box score. He was Boston's power animal and accepted the challenge of the moment by finishing with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block. "He was great," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “Part time starter when the boys are out he checks so many boxes for us. Like I said, it's not just things that show up on the stat sheet or in the rating, but he's the guy who moves the ball extremely well and defends multiple positions extremely well. “We don't lose much if certain guys go in or out. Having a player of White's caliber who can step in for an important figure like Smart speaks to the Celtics' calling card - their strength in numbers. During the playoffs, various players have appeared in various games as supporting beams to keep the NBA Finals dreams of core Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Smart alive. It was White's turn on Monday night and he wasted no time. The fifth-year guard set the tone by scoring the first 7 points for the Celtics. After White threw a fast break alley oop to Tatum, the score was 16-1. In a 180 from Game 3, the Celtics were big after the first quarter. They led 29-11 behind 12 points from Tatum - who outplayed the Heat himself after scoring just 10 points in Game 3 - and 10 points from White. The winning team in each game of this whiplash series has led by 20 points or more. Without the best defenseman in the league, the Celtics didn't miss a shot. Miami was down to 57 points at 8:55 in the fourth quarter. Not a single heat starter recorded double-digit points. "Obviously I miss Smart, keep saying hello to D-White," said Celtics center Robert Williams. "I feel like his energy early in the game set the tone for a lot of us." And thanks to Stevens for doing everything he could to win White. Ainge's fingerprints are everywhere on this team, from the Jays and Smart to Grant Williams and Robert Williams as late first-round picks. There were role players who thought they were better, like Marcus Morris. If the Celtics don't win the series, it will be one of the biggest missed opportunities in the history of the Boston sport. Stevens was brought off the bench and seems to have a better flair for creating a working squad than his old boss. He's also willing to part with valuable first-round picks for it. He sent a 2021 first-round pick to Oklahoma City to break Kemba Walker's contract and win back Al Horford. He gave up this year's first-rounder as well as a first-round pick swap in 2028 to bring White on board. It wasn't always the smoothest transition for White, who started 48 of 49 games for the Spurs. "You get thrown in the middle of the year, no training camp, nothing," White said. “They have something that they have established, play all year round, I don't know how many months together. But like the man who acquired him, White was determined to be aggressive. "The team did a great job of just being like, no, just be you," White said. It was ugly and rugged, but an exceptional performance propelled the Celtics to a crucial Game 4 victory. This was already a memorable run for White. He missed Game 2 when his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Hendrix, who shares the same name as Robert Williams' infant son. The streak has been one of on-court amnesia as the slate is wiped clean and a team wiped out every game. Neither team could strike a balance. The Celtics hope to change that in Game 5 with or without Smart on Wednesday. White will be waiting in the wings, ready to play his part, however big or small. That's what championship roleplayers do. This is how the Brad Stevens-built Celtics roll and a big reason they rolled in Game 4.
Keywords: first, White, Smart, Stevens, Game 4, year, 10, 7, Robert Williams, Tatum, Celtics, Boston, Game 3, 3, night, 8, fifth-year, 102-82, 2028, 2021, 180, 57, 49, 48, 20, 13, 12, 6, Brad Stevens-built, Wednesday, Game 5, Robert Williams', Hendrix, Game 2, the middle of the year, Al Horford