The Boston Celtics previously held a 3-2 series advantage before the Miami Heat came back to win Game 6 with a 111-103 victory. With the series tied at three games apiece, both teams will be heading to a do-or-die Game 7 in Miami to determine who will go on to the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference.
Throughout the season, Ime Udoka's squad has proven their resilience many times and that they are not going to go down easily against anyone. With the help of their leader in Jayson Tatum, they've managed to come this far and pose a legitimate threat to the Heat. Jaylen Brown has also shown that he is capable of stepping up for the team when Tatum is going through a slump of his own.
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Celtics' X-Factor in Game 7 vs. Heat
However, aside from those two, the true x-factor for the Celtics in Game 7 against the Heat would be Derrick White. Midway through the season, the Celtics knew that they would need a backup guard who can come off the bench and produce on both ends of the floor. They then sought the services of White from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, and a draft asset.
Now in the playoffs, the Celtics are aiming to maximize the veteran guard's skillsets as they aim to make a push to contend for the title this season. Looking back, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he slotted in for the injured Marcus Smart who was sidelined due to a foot injury.
White didn't score as much as he would've wanted to and the Celtics lost that game but he certainly got the minutes that he needed in order to get his confidence going for the remainder of the series. In Game 2, he was forced to miss action due to the birth of his newborn son before going scoreless in Game 3. Come Game 4, White played 40 minutes and delivered 13 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He also had three steals and a block for the Celtics' 102-82 victory over the Heat.
The 27-year-old guard continued to deliver for the Celtics as he produced 14 points, five assists, two steals, and a block in Game 5 for a 93-80 win. In Game 6, he had his best game in this year's playoffs with 22 points as 18 of those came in the second half. White shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc to go with five assists, three rebounds, three steals, and a block.
With his production, the Celtics were able to come close to the Heat, especially in the second half although they fell short towards the latter stages of the game en route to a loss in Game 6. Heading to Game 7, Smart is still being bugged by a right ankle sprain which could hinder him from playing at his best for the final game of the series.
Regardless of his health, White will definitely need to produce and step up off the bench in order to give both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown the support that they need from their supporting cast. Boston will also need his shot-making abilities as well as his presence on defense as they aim to gain the upper hand over the Heat's guards who have been playing better as of late. This includes Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, and Max Strus.
If White gets to make an impact and deliver the type of numbers that is needed from him then the Celtics will have a good chance of surviving this series. Hopefully, he will be able to even exceed his Game 6 performance on their opponents' home floor as they aim to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since the 2009-10 season.