The Boston Celtics could not have won Game 4 without a career-best performance from Al Horford or a late scoring surge from Jayson Tatum during their 116-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
But they also could not have tied up the best-of-seven series — their biggest win of the season — without the two-way play of Derrick White.
“We needed that with Jaylen (Brown) out,” Celtics head coach Ime Udoka told reporters of White, per NBA reporter Keith Smith. “He and Payton (Pritchard) needed to play minutes and they stepped up. As I’ve said all along, it’s not only the scoring, but (White) makes the right play shooting, or creating or taking his floater.”
White was a steadying fourth-quarter force with the Celtics having to play much of the period without Brown and Grant Williams, both of whom were in foul trouble. White defended at an extremely high level, while his presence on offense, plus his ability to shoot from the perimeter, opened up the paint down the stretch.
Marcus Smart and Tatum were two of the beneficiaries, as they scored inside on 1-on-1 matchups to help the Celtics maintain separation in the final three minutes. Bucks big men Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, especially when the Celtics went small with White and Horford on the floor, were forced to defend the 3-point line or give up open looks. When they gave up open looks, Boston made the most of it, depicted by Horford going 5-for-7 from long range.
Boston’s small lineup — Smart, White, Brown, Tatum and Horford — outscored the Bucks 24-9 while shooting 8-for-9 from the field with zero turnovers in five fourth-quarter minutes, as noted by The Athletic’s Jay King. The lineup also allowed Boston to dominate on the defensive end.
White’s ability on the defensive end was equally as crucial. He held the Bucks to 0-for-12 from the field when serving as the primary defender, according to ESPN Stats and Info. Milwaukee guard Jrue Holiday was 0-for-6 from the floor with White as the primary defender. And while Boston’s help defense and constant switching tends to impact the “primary defender,” White’s prowess on that end was clear by the eye test, as well.
Holiday finished with 16 points on 5-for-22 from the field while compiling a team-worst rating of minus-23.
White, on the other hand, was a plus-18 for the Celtics, which was second-best on the team behind only Horford (plus-20) as the 35-year-old veteran played an eye-popping 42 minutes. White finished Game 4 with 11 points on 66% shooting (4-for-6) with four rebounds, three assists, one block and zero turnovers.
White now heads back to Boston having averaged 12.5 points per game on 58.3% from the field and 50% from 3-point range in Milwaukee. The Celtics outscored the Bucks by 27 points when White was on the floor at Fiserv Forum.
The Celtics certainly will be hoping for another one of those performances from White when they return to TD Garden on Wednesday night for Game 5. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.