The Celtics backcourt was very shorthanded on Saturday evening in Utah with Marcus Smart sidelined as a result of a hip contusion and Payton Pritchard coping with a heel damage. Al Horford and Rob Williams have been additionally in avenue garments, placing Boston down three starters.
In concept, that ought to have created a straightforward reply for one evening to a lingering query of whether or not Derrick White needs to be on the ground in crunch time. With Smart, Al Horford and Rob Williams out, White ought to have been a lock to play essential minutes late towards a Jazz squad combating for its playoff lives.
Somehow, that wasn’t the case on Saturday evening as Boston fell 118-117 to the Jazz. Instead, White didn’t see the court docket within the fourth quarter in Salt Lake City as Joe Mazzulla opted to attempt to match measurement with Utah’s entrance line, taking part in Luke Kornet (8 minutes), Mike Muscala (6 minutes) and Sam Hauser (3 minutes) whereas letting arguably the third finest participant on the roster this yr watch from the sidelines.
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The determination to go large didn’t pay dividends in any respect for Boston. The Jazz scored 30 factors within the fourth quarter and grabbed 4 offensive rebounds regardless of capturing 47 % from the sector. Kornet (1 defensive rebound within the interval) isn’t robust on the defensive boards as a result of a scarcity of energy and supplied a straightforward man to assist off for Utah on the offensive finish. Put merely, Mazzulla tried to match up personnel with Utah on an evening when he didn’t have the suitable horses to do it. Going along with his finest gamers as a substitute who might have unfold Utah out extra was the smarter play in all probability.
Those 5 finest gamers ought to have included White, who the Celtics gave up some substantial capital for on the commerce deadline final season. He’s made that guess by Brad Stevens look good by placing collectively top-of-the-line seasons of his profession in Green this yr. White’s web ranking (+10) is one of the best on the group and ranks sixth within the NBA general amongst gamers who averaged 25 minutes or extra per recreation.
Put merely, good issues occur for the Celtics when White is on the ground this yr and he arguably needs to be taking part in over the likes of Marcus Smart or Malcolm Brogdon in crunch time even when Boston’s roster is at full energy. When it’s not, there isn’t any argument: White needs to be on the ground.
Despite placing collectively a stable all-around efficiency in his first three quarters in Utah (10 factors, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, a block and a steal), White was a spectator within the fourth quarter but once more. Plenty of Mazzulla’s different lineup decisions have been defendable. Grant Williams was having a profession capturing evening. Malcolm Brogdon’s offense was priceless towards the Jazz zone. After that? There’s no protection.
Going with a number of league-minimum gamers (Kornet, Hauser, Muscala) over a confirmed starter simply doesn’t make sense even when the scale subject is factored in. This is a recreation the Celtics wanted to win with offense and playmaking and White is the best-positioned participant to assist them try this over the latneratives. He might have taken strain off Boston’s scorers late along with his playmaking and likewise supplied stronger resistance to Talen Horton-Tucker late defensively after dealing with some mushy Boston protection late.
Unfortunately for Boston, White’s late-game benching isn’t an remoted incident. Mazzulla admitted making an analogous mistake when sitting White late towards the Knicks two weeks in the past in an additional time loss.
“It’s probably a coaching fault of mine yesterday,” Mazzulla stated a day after the loss. “I probably should have had him in at the end of the game. And so when we have the majority of our roster, balancing that out and trying to get the best players on the floor is important. Rewatching it today there were definitely moments when we could have had him on the floor. So, when he’s on the floor we’re a really good team, and we need him to be confident and aggressive on both ends.”
The undeniable fact that Mazzulla fell into the identical lure on Saturday evening with a weaker set of roster choices at his disposal is a regarding development. Boston’s margin for error is razor skinny in video games like we noticed Saturday and these kinds of losses might value Boston homecourt benefit for a pair rounds within the Eastern Conference playoffs. More vital than that, the Celtics crunch time woes (4-7 in final 11 video games that have been inside one possession within the closing two minutes) are escalating whereas errors like these are being made at Game No. 72 of the common season.
To his credit score, White hasn’t pouted about his lack of alternatives in late recreation spots so far.
“I mean, I’m playing basketball, I’m blessed. So I’m just trying to have the right perspective on things, but just understand that it’s a team game. There’s going to be times when I’m going to need to close, there’s going to be times when Malcolm, Smart, it’s hard to take them out of the game as well. Any time I’m out there, I just try to help us win games, and even if I’m off the court, just be a good teammate and trust that the people out there are going to help us win.”
The Celtics want to enhance a whole lot of issues within the subsequent few weeks in the event that they need to get again to the NBA Finals. Tatum must play higher, the rebounding must get higher (Rob Williams ought to assist there) and late recreation execution must be cleaned up. A great way to begin on that entrance can be placing the group’s finest gamers on the ground when the sport issues most.