On Thursday evening, at Boston Celtics they continued to defy the odds in a 110–97 win over The Miami heat in Game 5 at TD Garden. With the score 3-2 and back to Miami for Game 6, the Celtics are in the same position they were in the last series against Philadelphia: they won Game 6 and brought it home to Boston for a winner-takes-all matchup . Boston’s intensity on defense has seen them win back-to-back games now, but otherwise the team makes better use of their supporting cast in attack.
While Malcolm Brogdon struggled with a torn tendon in his right forearm and missed Game 5 prematurely, Derrick White stepped up, playing aggressively on both sides of the ball and shooting from the depths fearlessly, ending the night with a team-high 24 points after a scorching 8-of-11 from the field in including 6-of-8 from behind arc, three rebounds, an assist and two steals. White didn’t hesitate to take any shot and his teammates consistently found him around the perimeter, he was a quick and deadly trigger, landing shot after shot.
“Just a defensive mindset, I think,” White said of what fueled Boston’s offensive explosion. “We were able to stop which allowed us to go out and run and get in shape. So we have to have that mindset for the rest of the series.” Boston recorded only 9 turnovers of the night along with 13 interceptions and forced Miami to 16 turnovers. Miami only drew the game twice early in the first quarter, but after that point the Celtics were in full control and the Heat never regained the lead.
The last 3 players with over 200 PTS in 50/45/90% splits in the playoff round:
— Derrick White (2023)
— Donovan Mitchell (2020)
— Kawhi Leonard (2017)
White was also an All-Defensive player that season. pic.twitter.com/4GW8T0rEwU
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 26, 2023
“They’re focused on JB and JT,” said White. “So it gives me the power to shoot when I’m open and I was able to find a few holes and destroy them.” After struggling against Miami’s zonal defense – the specter of the 2020 bubble – Boston shook off its demons, continuing to move the ball and attacking decisively. Aggressive play and knockdown open eyes created holes in Miami’s troublesome defenses, and when that ship began to leak, the floodgates soon opened.
“We have to do whatever it takes to win,” White said of the Celtics’ defense and his role in it. “It’s the big side of the ball. Whenever I’m in action, and I’m in it many times, so I have to speed up and stop. The All-Defense 2nd team had trouble defending Jimmy Butler, especially in the first three games, but when the team turned the corner, so did Derrick White.
Boston also struggled from behind the arc early in the series, prompting frequent widespread criticism in the regular season: what do the Celtics do when the Threes don’t fall in love with them? Aside from the time-out rhetoric, Boston’s reliance on three balls has been a major criticism of Joe Mazzulli’s coaching philosophy. Not surprisingly, when the Celtics hit at least 18 three-pointers, their record is 31-6. In Game 5, the Celtics shot 16-of-39 (41%) from behind the arc. Miami hit 51.3% from the field and 39.1% from three, which had little impact on the final score.
“I think we just looked good today,” White said of the team’s shooting. “We were able to go out and run and make that extra pass and when you look like that with our shooters we’ll make them more than miss. So just keep on that extra pass and find the right guy. “
From game four, there was a huge shift in this team’s energy and approach to both offense and defense, back to selfless basketball after facing an elimination. Whatever rumors and whispers some NBA pundits were talking about were silenced by this unit’s response as a collective, focused on this single goal.
“We have a lot of love for each other, top to bottom,” said White. “We compete there. We know we have a long way to go and we have a lot of work to do, but it’s always fun to compete with the guys in our dressing room.
A 3-0 deficit seems insurmountable, but that doesn’t matter now. What was before Game 4 or even Game 5 is no longer relevant. It’s a 3-2 series, and with the season still on, look for the Celtics to come out with fire on Saturday night. Confidence and faith are the foundation of any comeback story, and for the Boston Celtics, their story is no different.