Derrick White has been an invaluable role player for the Boston Celtics this season, and never more so than in the final second of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night. With some quick thinking and a deft touch, White tipped in an offensive rebound at the buzzer to give the Celtics a stunning 104-103 win and keep their season alive.
Once down 0-3 in the series to the No. 8 seed Miami Heat, the Celtics have now drawn even at three games apiece and forced a Game 7 back in Boston on Monday. Of the 151 teams to find themselves on the verge of being swept, they are only the fourth team to even force a Game 7, and they’ll look to make NBA history as the home team Monday.
But the Celtics haven’t won anything outside of the ability to play another day. Still, White’s shot will take on even more importance if they win Game 7, but either way it will go down as an all-time playoff moment. In the aftermath, here’s a look at some of the best reactions to the play, from inside and outside of the arena.
White disputes dad’s claim of first game winner
Derrick White’s dad is an active tweeter during games, and was ecstatic about his son’s incredible play. Here’s a sample of some of his reactions: “Omg that’s my boy” and “7 because of 9,” referring to the Celtics forcing a Game 7 because of White, who wears number nine.
White’s father also added that this was his son’s first game winner.
Saturday night’s hero disputed that claim, however.
“First game winner ever? I had to have something special in college or something,” White said. “I’m going to check my dad on that one. But this is special. This is the playoffs. Game 6, backs against the wall. This is definitely special.”
Tatum: ‘That s— was crazy’
Jayson Tatum was right there embracing White on the floor as the celebrations began, but still hadn’t fully comprehended what he saw when he sat down for his postgame press conference.
“Ooh-whee,” Tatum said. “Oh, my God. That was incredible. Man, we drew up a play. They kind of took away that — I was trying to get the ball. Jimmy and Strus jumped out to me, Smart came and shot it, and we just crashed the glass. Everything was like a blur after that. D-White tipped it in, but that felt like the longest 10 seconds ever waiting for confirmation if he made it or not.
“I’m still like in disbelief. That s— was crazy.”
Like a flash of lightning
Jaylen Brown, much like his superstar teammate, was still in disbelief as he made his way to the podium. He was composed enough, however, to give us a great description of how White flew in from the weakside to get to the offensive boards.
“It all happened so fast,” Brown said. “I couldn’t really tell [what happened]. I know Smart shot it, and I thought it was good. Then Derrick White like a flash of lightning just came out of nowhere and saved the day, man. It was just an incredible play.”
Spoelstra rues bad luck, predicts Game 7 win
Before the last second of the game, it was the Heat who have been the comeback kings in this postseason — and were a split second away from their most important one yet. Head coach Erik Spoelstra deserves a lot of credit for keeping his team together and composed in those situations, but he can’t control everything.
He rued the unfortunate nature of the buzzer beater during his presser, but predicted a Game 7 win:
“Making that ball go anywhere but Jayson Tatum. Ideally, you would think, you hope you do the right things,” Spoelstra said. “That thing just bounced a different way. That’s the only place it could have bounced to hurt us. I thought we had a lot of things covered on that play and sometimes things just don’t break your way.
“I don’t think there’s any regrets on that. It’s just a shame. But look, this is the way this season has been. This is one hell of a series. At this time right now, I don’t know how we are going to get this done, but we are going up there and get it done. And that’s what the next 48 hours is about.”
Butler proud of his group, says Heat have to ‘move on’
Butler was nearly the hero in Game 6, but saw his potential game-winning free throw erased by White’s tip-in. Asked afterwards how the team can respond from such a devastating loss, Butler said they have no choice but to look forward.
“Basketball for you,” Butler said. “Basketball at its finest. Very, very, very entertaining. But that’s good basketball. I think, I believe, as we all do, like you’re going to get the same test until you pass it, I swear. We were in this same position last year. We can do it. I know that we will do it. We’ve got to go on the road and win in a very, very, very tough environment. But we are capable of it. So let’s get busy.
“I mean, I tell them, there ain’t nothing you can do about it now. All you can do is move on. But honestly, I’m proud of the guys to never give up, fight to the very end and giving us a chance to win this basketball game. Didn’t go our way. Part of it. It hasn’t been our — going our way a lot this year. So this is nothing new. We have got to go on the road and do something special. But we’ve got a special group, so why not it be us?”
NBA world stunned
The current and former players who weren’t involved in the game were watching as fans like the rest of us, and even they were stunned by what they witnessed.
You know a game and ending are special when even other players are reacting in that way.