Celtics guard Derrick White on Tuesday was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team. It is the first All-Defensive honor for White, who received 24 first-team votes and 51 second-team votes from the 100-member media panel. His 99 total points led all players on the second team, and he finished just 26 points behind Bulls guard Alex Caruso, who made the first team.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart, last season’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was not selected for one of the All-Defensive teams. Smart received 12 first-team votes and 11 second-team votes, putting him fifth among guards with 35 points.
White led all guards with 76 blocked shots, and he was one of the anchors of a Celtics unit that allowed 110.6 points per 100 possessions, the second-ranked defense in the NBA.
“Just a lot more settled in from last year understanding what we’re trying to do,” White said before the Celtics 115-103 loss to the 76ers Tuesday night in Game 5, “and I’ve got a lot of guys around me that help me out out there, that covered up for mistakes that I’ve made, and that’s the great thing about this defense.”
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said that amid the team’s goals, individual honors such as the one White received are meaningful, too.
“I think that’s important, because they have goals, they work at it, and especially the last two years having two guys get defensive awards I think is really important,” Mazzulla said. “So it’s always an adjustment playing in our system, and I think he’s done a great job of navigating that and learning how to be effective in different areas of our defensive system. So, I’m happy for him.”
Mazzulla faced criticism for failing to call a timeout during the last possession in the Celtics’ overtime loss in Game 4 on Sunday. The play ended with Smart’s potential game-winner on a pass from Jayson Tatum coming after the final buzzer.
On Monday, Mazzulla acknowledged that he should have called a timeout when the play was taking too long to materialize, and he shared this sentiment with his players. But 76ers veteran coach Doc Rivers, for one, said there was no need for Mazzulla to explain himself.
“I wouldn’t have if I was him,” Rivers said. “You live with the decision you make. They have two incredible players, and I thought Joe was right. They had a hell of a matchup advantage, so I think he was just being nice.
“It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day not everyone’s going to agree with your decisions whether you’re right or wrong or if it works or not. So, you’ve just got to keep doing your job. I think Joe has done a great job. He really has. He doesn’t get flustered. He’s got a great calm about him, and he commands the room.”
Out of steam
76ers star Joel Embiid acknowledged that he was fatigued late in Game 4, when Celtics forward Al Horford helped slow him down.
Rivers quipped that there was no need for Embiid to admit it, because everyone could see it. He added that it was not surprising that Embiid would need some time to work on his conditioning after missing two weeks with a sprained knee, and he said the team would monitor Embiid during Game 5. Embiid played 37 minutes, leading the 76ers with 33 points Tuesday night.
“If you can get him out when the game is going right, right before those quarters [end], one minute or so before the quarter, you get the entire quarter break,” Rivers said. “But sometimes the game doesn’t lend itself to that.”