Derrick White put up 28 points as the Boston Celtics beat rivals Miami 119-111 on Friday while NBA Draft top pick Victor Wembanyama starred in his first win for the San Antonio Spurs.
Jayson Tatum scored 22 points and Jaylen Brown contributed 27 in a strong all-around display from Boston, with all five starters in double figures as the Celtics won their home opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference championship series.
Miami trailed by just three points with 47.1 seconds left when Jimmy Butler was called for a foul on White, which was unsuccessfully challenged by furious Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
White then drained his two free throws and when Tyler Herro missed a 3-point jumper and Brown sank his from 30-feet out, Miami’s resistance was finally over.
Three crucial blocks added to an impressive performance from White, who was delighted with beating a Heat team that secured a place in the NBA Finals with a game-seven triumph at Boston.
“Anytime you’re on home court, you want to protect the home court and obviously, last time we played them here, they came out winning,” White said.
“It’s always a big game every time we play against them and we’re going to see them down the line a lot of times. So it’s always fun.”
Frenchman Wembanyama turned on the style in San Antonio’s 126-122 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets, coming up big in the latter stages of the game as he put up 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds with three blocked shots and two steals.
“It’s just a victory but it’s a day I’ll remember,” Wembanyama said.
“I really love winning. This is what I love most in life. Of course it feels great.”
The Spurs trailed by two with 32.1 seconds remaining when the 19-year-old grabbed a defensive rebound and tied the game on a driving layup with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
Wembanyama’s 16-foot jumper put his team ahead in overtime and he grabbed four total rebounds in the additional period.
“I’m proud of what we did tonight,” Wembanyama said. “We can see where we can get better. A win is a win but it shows that we got a lot of way to go as a team.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was impressed by the youngster’s impact in his second NBA start, despite “Wemby” going only 2-of-10 from the floor in the first half.
“He’s a competitor of course. He’s gonna be decisive and do everything to win. But they’re all like that,” he said.
“We showed some composure and some not so composed. That’s work in progress. Good was they were persistent.”
Proud ‘Pop’ praise
Wembanyama finished the night with 7-of-19 shooting from the floor, grabbing five offensive and seven defensive rebounds.
“Back in the locker room, Pop acknowledged it was my first-ever NBA win, just made me proud of myself,” Wembanyama said. “But it’s just one. We have a whole lot games to come.”
Wembanyama’s three dunks brought the arena fans to their feet but he received plenty of verbal attention from Popovich in the final minute of the game.
“Cause I forgot a play. It’s a little mistake — 100% legit for him to yell at me. I apologize.” said Wembanyama.
Nikola Jokic scored 22 points and made 12 rebounds and seven assists as the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets went to 2-0 with a 108-104 victory over Memphis.
The Chicago Bulls also enjoyed an overtime win, beating the Toronto Raptors 104-103 with Demar DeRozan scoring 33 points.
Alex Caruso’s 3-point jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining secured the victory for Chicago.
Luka Doncic scored 49 points, including a crucial 3-pointer with 26.1 seconds left, as the Dallas Mavericks held off the Brooklyn Nets 125-120.