‘Derrick was huge, obviously’: Derrick White boosts Celtics over Hawks, plus takeaways

"It was huge to have a guy like him ready on a night when Jaylen goes out."

Celtics Hawks
Boston Celtics guard Derrick White, right, drives to the basket against Atlanta Hawks center Clinat Capela. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The Celtics were within striking distance against the Hawks on Tuesday after an enormous third-quarter rally turned a 14-point lead into sawdust, but they needed someone to step up when Jayson Tatum went to the bench.

Jaylen Brown went out with an ankle injury in the first quarter, leaving the Celtics scrambling to find rotations that could buy Tatum a few minutes’ rest.

Derrick White delivered. He curled off a screen and flipped in a layup plus the foul to tie the game. Then he buried a pull-up jumper on the baseline. Then he floated in a bucket over Clint Capela to give the Celtics a lead.

By the time Tatum returned to the game just two minutes later, the Celtics had the lead. The Hawks — who managed just 33 points in the second half — never recovered.


White finished with 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting. He was just 1-for-5 from 3-point range as his struggles from deep continue in Boston (he’s shooting just 24.3 percent since the trade), but the Celtics might not have won Tuesday’s game without him. Ime Udoka said the Celtics talked at halftime about ways to get White more involved.

“Offensively it felt like we were a little — I don’t know, shell-shocked with Jaylen going out, kind of had to figure out how we were going to attack it, and Derrick was a huge part of that obviously,” Udoka said. “A guy that can handle the ball, score, and make plays for everybody.

“They started doubling Jayson and everybody else got to kind of eat off of him, and so Derrick was huge obviously — handling, scoring, distributing, defensively, all the way around. So it was huge to have a guy like him ready on a night when Jaylen goes out.”

More takeaways

2. Marcus Smart played a game that will satisfy both his supporters and his detractors. In the first half, he finished with five turnovers and threw up several less-than-ideal shots. In the second, he sparked the Celtics’ comeback and made spectacular defensive plays on three consecutive possessions.


The first was this block.

“I was telling the guys I actually wasn’t gonna get back,” Smart said. “I was exhausted. I said ‘Oh, man, these guys are running.’ I seen JT and Grant put their heads down and take off in a full sprint and I realized it was 3-on-2 disadvantage and I was the closest guy.

“So once I seen that, it kind of gave me the little juice I needed to put my head down and go down and help.”

The second was this steal.

“Once the ball was going out of bounds I knew there was only one place he could go, which was right back to the guy on the sidelined,” Smart said. “So I just made a play, jumped on it and found Grant. I’m just glad Grant turned around, because that was the only person I was throwing it to.”

Roll your eyes at his shot selection if you want, but Smart was an enthusiastic participant and instigator in the defensive effort that brought the Celtics back from a double-digit deficit.

“I’m constantly talking to the guys,” Smart said. “No let-up. For us, we can’t let doubt creep into our minds. We’re going to have games like this. It’s just how we respond.”


3. Do the Celtics just struggle when their rotations get messed up? After Brown left the game, the Hawks ran out to a 17-point lead against a Celtics defense that suddenly seemed out of sorts. Rather than looking a step slow, the Celtics just didn’t really look like they knew where to be — likely a byproduct of lineups that have never played together.

In the second half, the Celtics rebuilt their rotations nicely — Aaron Nesmith slotted in for Brown, and the Celtics were back on track. Sure enough, they throttled the Hawks the rest of the way. Young, who scored 21 points in the first half, managed just 10 in the second.

Udoka said the Celtics’ defense was a carryover from the last two games.

“No yelling and screaming, it was more like just get back to who we are defensively, what we’ve done,” Udoka said. “Obviously a 13-point third and a 20-point fourth is evident of what we can do, and a huge part was obviously stopping him.”

4. Grant Williams scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including both of his 3-pointers. Both were enormous in helping the Celtics build a lead the Hawks couldn’t really challenge down the stretch, and both were assisted by Tatum.

“It’s more so just working on that craft, understanding what [Tatum] needs from me,” Williams said. “I remember during the game I was like, ‘do you want me to cut there and make it so that Gallo maybe not double?’ He said ‘No, you stay spaced and then the other guy will come on the backside and you’ll be ready to shoot.’


“I was like, oh, a couple years back it would have been like ‘cut, get to the dunker and do something else.’ So I think it’s just a trust between the two of us, and he trusts the rest of the team as well.”

5. The Celtics are at their best when Tatum plays the right way. To that end: They lost to the Pacers by 21 when Tatum went 2-for-12 from 3-point range, but they rallied and beat the Hawks when Tatum scored 33 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out seven assists even though he was 3-for-10 from deep.

The best version of the Celtics is one when Tatum is hitting from 3. The second-best seems to be when they defend like crazy and Tatum punishes opponents for focusing too much attention on him.

6. The Celtics take on the electrifying Ja Morant and the Grizzlies on Thursday.

“He’s MVP in my eyes already this early in his career and there’s a lot of tremendous respect to him and what he’s done,” Williams said. “And the teams that they have, they play together every single night — Desmond [Bane], Jaren [Jackson] – like they’re one of the most fun teams to watch in my opinion.”


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