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The same glaring weakness has held the Celtics back as much as any other deficiency in the last two years. In 2022, when they engineered the most impressive in-season turnaround in NBA history and came within two wins of a title, in the playoffs, their crunch-time offense produced the second-fewest points, averaging 4.8 in the final five minutes of games within five in the last five minutes, per

The Grizzlies, who generated the most points in the clutch among teams who found themselves in that circumstance at least three times that postseason, more than doubled Boston's output, manufacturing 10.5 per contest.

While the Celtics got within a game of returning to the NBA Finals, their crunch-time offense wasn't much better in the 2023 playoffs. Boston ranked 12th out of 16 teams this past postseason, averaging 7.9 points in the clutch, per


While there's plenty of blame to go around, those struggles were one of the primary motivations in the franchise making the difficult decision to trade Marcus Smart.

He was the heart and soul of the Celtics in his time in Boston and helped fuel their success throughout a nine-year tenure where they never missed the playoffs.

But Smart also took twice as many shots as Jaylen Brown in crunch time this past postseason and nearly as many threes as Jayson Tatum despite shooting 25 percent in the clutch, per

Defenses are willing to play off him, making it more difficult for Tatum, in particular, to drive downhill, and the correct read becomes sending the ball to their now former floor general, playing into the opposition's hand.

Now, Derrick White, who, despite playing 12.5 total minutes in the final five minutes of games within five, the third-fewest of the team's eight rotation players who got on the floor in those circumstances last postseason, made an impact with a buzzer-beating put-back of a Smart three that went in-and-out, salvaging Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, will primarily be the point guard closing contests for the Celtics.


While the former Spur's about to have more responsibility initiating and organizing the offense, he should prove up for it.

White's also coming off a career campaign, producing 12.4 points, a tick under four assists, 3.6 rebounds, and nearly a block per game. He also earned a spot on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team and drilled 38.1 percent of his 4.8 three-point attempts. Excluding his rookie season when he hoisted less than one per contest, the latter's a personal best.

Along with White's golden opportunity to become a fixture in Boston's closing lineup, Tatum and Brown will be able to kick the ball out to the player Brad Stevens acquired in the three-team deal sending Smart to Memphis, Kristaps Porzingis.

While the latter will have to prove himself after going from averaging 20.1 points as the Robin to Luka Doncic's Batman with the Mavericks in the 2020-21 regular season to 13.1 in the playoffs while shooting 29.6 percent from beyond the arc, like White, 2022-23 was Porzingis' best.

The former All-Star generated a career-high 23.2 points, grabbed 8.4 rebounds, and dished out 2.7 assists in 32.6 minutes per game. He also nearly made it into the elusive 50/40/90 club.


The former fourth-overall pick shot 49.8 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from beyond the arc on 5.5 three-point attempts, and capitalized on 85.1 percent of his 6.4 free throws.

Porzingis is a three-level scorer who's made significant strides in the post. He's also a skilled passer, including when involved in dribble handoffs. And outside of his rookie campaign and struggles in his 34 games with Dallas in 2021-22, he's knocked down at least 36 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts from beyond the arc throughout his career, per

While the dynamic nature of his offensive repertoire figures to boost the Celtics' crunch-time offense, the seven-foot-three center's ability to consistently convert off the catch from long distance, including from well behind the arc, is likely what will prove most valuable playing off Tatum and Brown in Joe Mazzulla's offense.

And while Al Horford played 39.3 total minutes in the clutch last postseason compared to Robert Williams logging 4.5, if the latter's work with trainer Aaron Miller on punishing switches and being more of a scoring threat out of dribble handoffs pays dividends, it will help him make Boston's offense more difficult to bottle up in crunch time when he's on the floor.

Along with personnel changes, when trying to close out tightly contested playoff tilts, the Celtics' offense will benefit from the additions of Sam Cassell and Charles Lee, two of the NBA's top assistants, both long-deserving of head-coaching opportunities.

There's also the hope and internal belief Mazzulla is better in year two after navigating the challenges that come with going from behind the bench to becoming the youngest active head coach in the league and taking over a title contender shortly before training camp opens and nearly helping Boston get back to the Finals.

All these changes will make it easier for Tatum and Brown to operate. How much of a leap they make this season, especially the former, an MVP candidate about to enter his prime, will have as much influence as any factor in whether this campaign ends with the Celtics capturing Banner 18.

Further Reading

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Amid Negotiations with Celtics, Jaylen Brown Continues Giving Back to Community He Stars In: 'Nothing Fills My Heart More'

Boston Celtics Guard Named to USA Select Team

Intriguing Option for Celtics May Soon Become Available

Joel Embiid Processing Sixers' Future, Could He Join Jayson Tatum on Celtics?

Celtics Reportedly Show Interest in Signing Austin Rivers

Gabe Vincent Says He Sensed Celtics Were 'Not Fully Right Internally' in Eastern Conference Finals

Sam Cassell Discusses What Brought Him Back to Boston and What He'll Bring to the Celtics

Oshae Brissett on Joining Celtics: 'I Just Want to Go Win'

Marcus Smart Reflects on His Time with Celtics: 'I Left Everything I Had'

Evaluating Celtics' Options in Free Agency