At the start of the second half of Game 2 in this conference semifinal series, the Bucks deployed two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the top defenders in the NBA, on Celtics guard Derrick White.
But it was not actually a sign of respect. White’s shooting struggles since being traded to Boston in February have been pronounced, and Antetokounmpo was essentially serving as a roamer with the freedom to leave White open when he pleased.
White did not make the Bucks pay. He finished the game scoreless, 0 for 6 from the field and 0 for 4 from the 3-point line. But his impact was felt in other ways. The Celtics outscored the Bucks by 22 points during White’s 28 minutes, 27 seconds on the floor, tied for the highest plus-minus on the team in the 109-86 win.
“You saw a savvy veteran guard who has been around and knows how to handle himself in the playoffs,” said Celtics guard Marcus Smart. “Although he didn’t score the ball or shoot the ball very effectively the way we and he himself expect, but he made plays in other ways to affect the game and impact the game.
“I think he was what, plus-22 as well, with that? So his shot is going to fall, he’s going to continue to be himself, and that’s just making everybody around him better.”
White chipped in with 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal and helped steady the defense in place of Smart, who missed the game because of a quadriceps contusion. Although he is just 3 for 18 from the 3-point line in these playoffs, coach Ime Udoka remains confident in him.
“Everything else he does obviously has a huge impact on us,” Udoka said. “One of our main penetrate-and-kick guys, plays with great pace in the halfcourt and in transition, gets downhill and gets other guys shots. So whether he gets the assist or the hockey assist, I think him getting the ball moving [is big].
“Then, defensively, having that versatility to not lose a ton when Marcus goes out, as far as size and the way we want to guard, coverage-wise — all the little things that sometimes don’t show up, but we know are valuable to us, he does.”
A good break
The Celtics and Bucks have an unusually long three-day break between Games 2 and 3. The Heat and 76ers met Wednesday in Game 2 of their conference semifinal and will play again Friday, while Boston and Milwaukee will not meet again until Saturday. For the Celtics, it has provided some extra time for Smart to return from his quadriceps injury. “Certain situations I feel like it’s good to have that break,” center Robert Williams said. “Obviously, both teams having a long season, going through injuries with guys. Thankfully we got a couple of days between, but even if we were playing today or we’re playing Saturday, we’ve got to be ready. So it’s whatever.” … Williams has been named the winner of the 2022 Jeff Twiss Award, given by the Boston chapter of the Pro Basketball Writers Association to the Celtic who exhibits exemplary professionalism and accountability during interactions with the media.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.