Al Horford praises 'unbelievable' Derrick White after Celtics' Game 5 win

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Horford praises 'unbelievable' Derrick White after Celtics' Game 5 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics trailed 42-37 at halftime of Game 5 against the Miami Heat, and it would've been a lot worse without a stellar performance from Derrick White.

White helped keep the Celtics close as they tried to fight through an awful first half of shooting the basketball. Boston made just 13 of its 34 field goal attempts over the first 24 minutes, including a lackluster 4-of-16 mark from 3-point range.

Udoka reveals his message for Jaylen Brown that helped spark Celtics' Game 5 win

White was the outlier. He had a team-high 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting at halftime. The veteran guard also made an impact defensively and as a playmaker.

White only scored three points in the second half, but he didn't need to shoulder much of the offensive burden because Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown finally woke up and carried the team to a 93-80 victory over the final two quarters. The Game 5 win puts Boston within a single victory of reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

The great start and all-around impressive play from White didn't go unnoticed by his teammates, particularly Celtics center Al Horford.

"D-White for us was unbelievable tonight," Horford told reporters in his postgame press conference. "He was great. His energy, his activity, such a smart player. Made really big plays.

"People probably won't talk about it enough, but for me he was huge. The minutes he gave us and the impact he had on this game. It's going to take different guys stepping up and doing things like that."

White's importance in Game 5 was heightened with Marcus Smart battling an ankle injury and picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter. White replaced him and kept the Celtics in the game with his scoring and defense.

The trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire White in February has paid huge dividends in these playoffs. Having a starting-caliber guard with an impressive two-way skill set come off the bench is a huge luxury for head coach Ime Udoka. The Celtics did not have this kind of player in their recent trips to the conference finals.

And if the Celtics do reach the 2022 NBA Finals, White's role will become even more critical as someone who can defend the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole or Luka Doncic.