Again, Derrick White’s shot catapults the Celtics into the NBA Finals


On the anniversary of his last-second tip-in against the Heat, White hit the bucket that cemented the Celtics’ series sweep over Indiana.

Derrick White hit the winner over Aaron Nesmith as fans and Pacers players looked on.

INDIANAPOLIS — This time, staying in the corner was the right call.

Late in the fourth quarter, Derrick White stood patiently as Jaylen Brown used a screen from Jrue Holiday to drive into the paint. Four Indiana defenders converged on Brown in the middle, leaving White wide open for the go-ahead 3-point attempt with 45 seconds to go.

White nailed the shot, clinching a 105-102 victory over the Pacers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

On the anniversary of his last-second tip-in against the Heat, White hit the bucket that cemented a series sweep over Indiana and sent the Celtics back to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.

“That was big. D-White is a big-time player, especially in that moment,” Jayson Tatum said. “There’s a lot on the line, pressure. But, we trust him. JB made the right pass and D-White knocked down a hell of a shot.”

White was in the position to make the tip-in last year because after he inbounded the ball, he had the awareness to sprint from the corner 3-point line to the basket in pursuit of a rebound off a missed 3-pointer from Marcus Smart. The ball bounced right to him, and he smoothly laid it in before the buzzer sounded.

On Monday night, White was smart enough to stay put and keep Indiana’s defense spaced out.

“Just space and then just trust that JB is going to make the right play like he has this entire year,” White said. “I felt like I got a good look and just wanted to stay in the shot and knock it down. Obviously, I missed a lot in a row but it was starting to feel a little better so I just stayed confident and was able to make one.”

Because of the attention he drew with his drive, Brown had multiple options available.

Tatum ran to the 3-point line and called for the ball with a decent amount of space between him and the nearest defender. Holiday was also at the top of the key, though it would have been risky for Brown to look behind him and try to feed. Brown eventually settled on giving the ball to White in the corner.

“Great shot. You know, we work on that all the time. 2-on-1 reads,” Brown said. “They veered it. I was able to get to the paint with [Myles] Turner on me and just found him and before, I told D-White, ‘Just stay ready, it’s coming,’ and that was just a big shot to put us up 3 and help us advance to the Finals.”

White had missed all seven of his 3-point attempts in the game before burying the go-ahead triple. Coach Joe Mazzulla said White’s ability to forget his stumbles serves him well.

“It’s a credit to him,” Mazzulla said. “He’s another guy where he’s just got short-term memory. The last shot doesn’t bother him. He plays with a sense of joy, a sense of presence, and I thought he got some really good looks, too. I think that’s like the fourth or fifth time. I remember a game at Toronto where he hit a corner 3 to end it there.”

Mazzulla continued: “When he catches that, I have full faith that it’s going in. Another guy where his lack of shotmaking didn’t impact his defense or his execution at times, and all the guys have kind of done that this year.”

Holiday said he believes the Celtics are in good hands when White has the ball in clutch situations.

“He’s our point guard,” Holiday said. “He’s the one who manages the clock. He’s the one who gets us into things and actions. Manages time, and he hit a big 3 in the corner. Just making big plays.”

And still, despite those big plays, Holiday said he thinks White still doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

“The way that Derrick has played is how he’s been playing all year. All-star level, but you can see the leadership in how he’s been playing.”

One year after earning his place in Celtics lore, White has the Celtics four wins away from claiming their first title since 2008 thanks to another last-minute go-ahead bucket.

These are the kinds of moments White lives for, Al Horford said.

“That Miami one was kind of surreal at that moment, at that time,” Horford said. “Very overwhelming. With this one, it just felt so good. D-White is the type of player that he’s made for those type of moments.”

“I feel like he really relishes that. It was a great play and he just finished it. For us, obviously, we’re not satisfied and we’re enjoying this one tonight. But, different than last year, I feel like our mindset is very clear. We understand what we need to do. We need to finish this.”

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