In the final frame of Monday’s Celtics’ win over the Pelicans, Derrick White missed 16 of his last 17 shots before erupting for 13 points.
You wouldn’t know it, though, based on how the former Colorado Buffalo was approaching, not just this game but each contest he’s had to play through while watching most of his attempts fall off the mark.
He’s got other ways to contribute offensively, stayed locked in defensively, and isn’t hesitating to let it fly, knowing he’s consistently taking quality shots. The latter reflects his maturation and the increased confidence he’s playing with compared to years past.
And in the fourth quarter on Monday, White, who raised his arms to the heavens after finally seeing a three splash through the net, turned into a flame thrower, erupting for 13 points on 5/6 shooting, knocking down 3/4 attempts from beyond the arc.
“Just gotta go back to the basics,” White conveyed of how he handled searching to get his groove back.
“Stuff that you’ve been doing your whole life. Personally, I was focusing on staying in my shot and getting the arc, so those were the two things that I was trying to focus on most of the game, and I was able to see one go down and go from there.
“So, go back to the basics, stay in the shot, hold your follow through, simple things like that, and it was good to see them go in.”
As he struggled to find his rhythm, Celtics’ head coach Joe Mazzulla said to him:
“‘We support you, we’ve got your back, like, we need you, so, like, I don’t care, as long as you’re taking great shots and you’re playing on both ends of the floor, just be yourself,’ and I think that’s important.”
When the six-year veteran came to the podium after helping propel Boston to a 118-112 win, he shared regarding the dialogue between him and his bench boss, “He was telling me, ‘Don’t feel sorry for yourself. You’re too good of a player to be doing that.’
“I try to affect the game in other ways. Not just scoring, but I gotta have the energy, the things like that to help us win games whether I’m making shots or not, and I don’t think I was doing that for most of the game, so, especially that fourth quarter, I was like, ‘just help us win, like, make shots, miss shots, just help us win.'”
White also had unwavering support from his teammates, including Jayson Tatum, who stuffed the stat sheet on Monday, matching Brandon Ingram with a game-high 28 points, pairing that with eight assists and three steals, pacing all participants in both categories, ten rebounds, and a rejection.
“D. White’s somebody I’m really close with, and we was walking down the tunnel at halftime, and I slapped his hand and was like, ‘We got All our misses out now,'” said the five-time All-Star.
“Anybody as talented as he is and can shoot the ball as well as him, you just continue to take the right shots, and they’ll eventually fall.”
While the 29-year-old acknowledged, “it’s been a little bit of a struggle,” surrounding him was a group that never lost faith in a trusted teammate in the middle of a career year.
“Everybody was just telling me, ‘Stay confident, keep shooting.’ They were just trusting me. And so it’s good to reward that trust from my teammates, and then after that, I was just trying to keep making shots, just try to stay in the moment and help us win any way I could.”