Horry Scale: Derrick White's buzzer-beating putback keeps Celtics' season alive

Published May 29, 2023, 9:00 AMNBA.com Staff

Derrick White's improbable putback as time expires lifts Boston past Miami and forces Game 7 in Eastern Conference Finals.

A reminder on The Horry Scale: It breaks down a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety night in November?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.

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The Miami Heat had the NBA Finals in their grasp. Until they didn’t.

The Boston Celtics blew a 10-point lead in the final four minutes of Game 6 and trailed 103-102 with three seconds left after Jimmy Butler made three free throws. Marcus Smart’s desperation 3-point attempt rimmed out on the ensuing possession, but Derrick White scored on a last-second putback just before time expired.

With the dramatic 104-103 victory, Boston moved to the brink of the greatest comeback in NBA playoffs history. Game 7 is Monday at TD Garden as the Celtics try to become the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-0 playoff series deficit.

GAME SITUATION: Quiet most of the game, Butler scored 12 points in final four minutes to give the Heat a one-point lead. His three free throws with three seconds left looked like they were going to bury the Celtics. On the following inbound, White got the ball into Smart, who quickly launched a turnaround 3-pointer that rimmed out. Because Smart took the shot so quickly, there was just enough time for White to dart in from the sideline and tip it in off glass before the buzzer sounded.

DIFFICULTY: As the inbounder, White saw the play unfold in front of him. He actually looked for a return pass from Smart as he sprinted down the baseline. When White got into the paint, the rebound found him with 0.3 seconds left. He was still holding the ball with 0.2 seconds left. With the clock at 0.1, the ball left his hands. There was no margin for error. Lucky bounce, but great instincts in a high-pressure spot.

CELEBRATION: White stood alone in front of the Celtics bench for about 10 seconds signaling bucket as the referees reviewed the play. He knew it was good. When it was official, Robert Williams III greeted White with a bear hug and the entire Celtics team quickly joined the party as the Miami crowd went silent in disbelief.

GRADE: White’s miraculous putback will go down in Celtics lore right up there with Larry Bird’s iconic steal and dish to Dennis Johnson in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. White saved the Celtics’ season and became the second player in NBA history to hit a buzzer-beater with his team trailing on the scoreboard and facing elimination. The other player? Michael Jordan in 1989 vs. the Cavaliers. Now that’s clutch. 5 Horrys.