The San Antonio Spurs edged out the Denver Nuggets, 101-96, in a close Game 1 on the road to neutralize the home court advantage for their opponents. In the win, it wasn’t one player who stood out, with five Spurs scoring between 14 and 18 points.
But coming into the season, few could’ve imagined 24-year-old point guard Derrick White being this impactful in a big playoff game.
White, a 6’4 guard who played three years of Division 2 basketball in college and spent his first season mostly playing in the G League, has been stellar for San Antonio in Year 2. After Spurs starting point guard Dejounte Murray went down with a torn ACL before the season started, their future looked grim. But White, a multi-dimensional player who can score and defend, has assumed his role seamlessly.
In the win, White scored 16 points with five assists and three rebounds. He made Jamal Murray’s night tough on the defensive end, converted on 7-of-10 shots from the field, and looked like a veteran.
“He’s pretty steady,” Popovich said of White ahead of the game, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s not like watching Manu [Ginobili. You know what you are going to get from Derrick. And he’s just getting smarter every week that goes by. He’s going to have a great future. At this point, I don’t know how he can improve any more. During the year, he was wonderful.”
On Saturday night, White had two memorable plays, and probably the biggest of the night.
First, the No. 29 pick in the 2017 draft launched through the air in the third quarter of a tight game and slammed a dunk right in the face of All-Star Paul Millsap.
The Twitter reactions were incredible:
Both teams couldn’t score and Derrick White decided to kill a man to kill the streak
— Zito (@_Zeets) April 14, 2019
DERRICK WHITE JUST OBLITERATED PAUL MILLSAP AND-ONE
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 14, 2019
derrick white’s face after that dunk reminds me of something i’ve always wanted to do, which is rank the funniest I Just Did A Grown Man Dunk faces
— Haley O’Shaughnessy (@HaleyOSomething) April 14, 2019
The playoffs = Derrick White SZN
— Cole Zwicker (@colezwicker) April 14, 2019
The second White play was the game-clincher. With less than seven seconds left, the Nuggets only trailed by three points. A clutch shot could’ve sent the game into overtime. But we never saw the ball go up thanks to a steal before Denver could cross the halfcourt line. White declared the game over.
He might not be a superstar, but White’s been a vital piece in San Antonio. The Spurs wouldn’t be here without him.