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Derrick White’s MVP night shows why he’s Celtics’ most consistent player

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As Derrick White stepped to the free throw line with 21.3 seconds remaining on Friday night – with a Celtics win already sealed – the chants at TD Garden were heard faintly.

But as he made his second free throw for his 30th point of the night, the chants were much more clear.

“M-V-P! M-V-P!”

As humble as he is, White couldn’t help but]

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hear it. The Celtics guard cracked a smile postgame as he recalled the moment.

“It’s crazy,” White said. “We’ve got the best fans in the league so I’m always thankful and grateful for them. I know I’m not the MVP but it’s always cool to hear.”

It wasn’t the first time he’s heard it. Last spring, during his big performance in the Celtics’ Game 2 victory over the Hawks when he scored 26 points, White was also showered with MVP chants.

White is right, for the most part. He’ll likely never be considered a serious MVP candidate, especially when he shares the court with Jayson Tatum. But his value to the Celtics, at this point, is unquestionable. After Friday’s win, he’s second in the NBA in plus/minus at plus-184, one behind Oklahoma City’s Isaiah Joe. He seems to always make the right plays, between his shot-making, passing and all the little things he does on both ends. He might not be the MVP, but he’s probably the Celtics’ most consistent player.

That’s what made Monday so surprising. In the Celtics’ loss to the Pacers, White did not play up to his standards. Though he produced 18 points and eight assists, he committed turnovers, including the game-sealing giveaway in the final minute. He was hard on himself after that game. He described his performance as “horrible” in the second half. And then he had to sit on it for the rest of the week.

“Obviously you think about it, especially when you’ve got all this time off which is rare in the NBA,” White said. “But after a couple days I moved on and just trying not to have two bad games in a row. And I played a lot better today.”

White produced the kind of all-around effort that’s become expected. Of course, he scored 30 points – the second time he’s reached that mark as a Celtic – as he made six of his open looks from 3-point range. But Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla praised how he balanced scoring and facilitating. He committed zero turnovers. Defensively, he produced a pair of steals and blocks, which has become typical.

On a team littered with All-Stars and talent, White is the ultimate glue player that drives the engine of a championship contender, makes the right plays consistently and impacts the game in so many ways while demanding none of the credit. As Friday showed, he can be counted on because he doesn’t let the occasional bad performance linger. While he generated headlines and MVP chants on Friday, this is what White does on a nightly basis.

“I think more and more people are talking about it now, but I think he’s still underrated,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “And I think where it really shows is of course he already puts up great stats and his numbers are really good. But if you don’t watch the game, what you don’t see is all those steals, something like where he recovers on defense when it’s already super late and somehow he gets a steal. Those kinds of small plays that can really change a game, really change the momentum, he’s really good at that.

“And I think that’s what … if you don’t watch the game, you don’t see. But when you watch the game you realize how important and how good he is.”


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