Derrick White is the Boston Celtics’ X-factor, with Kristaps Porzingis out

The Boston Celtics had no trouble in the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs, advancing past the Jimmy Butler-less Miami Heat in five games.

However, the Celtics suffered an unfortunate blow in Game 4, losing center Kristaps Porzingis to a right soleus strain that is expected to force him out of “a minimum of several games,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Celtics have one of the deepest rosters in the league, so they seemed unfazed by Porzingis’ absence. Derrick White is largely to thank for adapting seamlessly without Porzingis, as he thrived in the final two games of the series. The 29-year-old finished Game 4 with 38 points on 8-of-15 shooting from 3-point range, then scored 25 points and 5 rebounds in Game 5.

White has been great on both ends of the court for Boston, and it’s worth noting that he’s scored more points this postseason than the likes of superstars Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Paul George, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

While Porzingis is clearly Boston’s X-factor, it’s becoming clear that White will need to fill that role for the Celtics until Porzingis is able to return to the court.

White is considered one of the best guards in the NBA, especially when it comes to shot blocking. At 6-foot-1, he averaged more than a block in the 2023-24 regular season. He, along with defensive partner Jrue Holiday, were the biggest factors in shutting down Heat guard Tyler Herro, who averaged 16.8 points and 5.4 assists on mediocre shooting in Round 1.

White’s unexpected emergence in attack is what sets him apart from other potential difference makers. The Celtics are loaded with scorers, including Tatum and Jaylen Brown, which means fewer opportunities to score. But even their All-Star duo played a backseat role for White in Game 4, as he attempted 26 shots to Tatum’s 14 and Brown’s 18. White’s three-point shooting has been huge for Boston, as he shoots 47.7% from beyond the arc . in the postseason so far.

White played five seasons under legendary coach Gregg Popovich and learned a lot, thriving in San Antonio thanks to his unselfishness and hustle. He brought those same things to Boston, and he always finds a way to make an impact on both ends of the court. After Game 4, White expressed his gratitude for coach Joe Mazzulla and his teammates.

“Since (Mazzulla) took over, he has given me the most confidence,” White said. “I can talk to him; he can talk to me. That relationship is getting better and better every day and it’s great to play for him, and I love it. Obviously the teammates, guys, are such great players on the team, but they let me do what I do and believe in me, and I think that’s big.

Boston awaits the Cleveland Cavaliers or Orlando Magic in Round 2, with the Cavs leading the series 3-2. If Cleveland is their eventual opponent, White and Holiday’s defense will be crucial against the offensive firepower of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. Meanwhile, the Magic’s backcourt leaves a lot to be desired outside of Jalen Suggs, meaning White could focus more on his offensive asset.

Either way, White is playing his best basketball on the biggest stage, and Boston will need him to continue to shine while they are shorthanded.