Boston Celtics

Hauser flashes series-impacting potential in Celtics' Game 1 win

The C's sharpshooter stepped up in his 2024 playoff debut.

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BOSTON -- After a late-March win over the Chicago Bulls, Sam Hauser provided a bit of foreshadowing.

"You're motivated in those types of games to just show what you can do," Hauser said after hitting 7 of 8 3-pointers to spark an 11-point Celtics victory. "(You want to show) the coaches, 'If you throw me into a certain game in the playoffs, I'll be ready to go.'"

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon at TD Garden in Game 1 of Boston's first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, where head coach Joe Mazzulla gave Hauser the first meaningful postseason minutes of his career. The Celtics sharpshooter responded by drilling 4 of 4 3-pointers in the second quarter as part of a 12-point outburst that help Boston stretch a slim five-point lead to 15 points by halftime.

Hauser's 3-point barrage was no surprise to anyone who followed the Celtics during the regular season. The 26-year-old hit a career-high 197 3-pointers in 79 games at a 42.4 percent clip, good for 11th in the entire NBA. But there's a reason why Hauser was so eager to prove himself in the playoffs.

Hauser barely cracked Boston's playoff rotation in 2023, averaging just 6.9 minutes per game in 15 appearances. He played just 22 minutes total in the Celtics' Eastern Conference Finals series loss to the Heat, and his 12 points in one quarter Sunday were more than he scored in that entire series (10 points in five appearances.)

Hauser has played a much larger role on this Celtics team, however, and Mazzulla is clearly intent on continuing that trend in the postseason.

"You can't go into the playoffs and shut those guys out," Mazzulla said of the Celtics' bench, which got a combined 30 points from the trio of Hauser, Al Horford (10) and Payton Pritchard (eight) in Boston's 114-94 win. "You've got to give them their run, because they just bring a different dynamic to the game. ... We need our bench, we need our depth in order to maximize this opportunity that we have. They did a great job."

After the Celtics parted ways with reigning Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and 3-and-D forward Grant Williams last summer, there were questions about how Boston's bench would hold up. After the Celtics' "Stay Ready" group -- led by Hauser, Pritchard and Luke Kornet -- flourished during the regular season, some still wondered whether that success would translate to the postseason.

One game is obviously a small sample size, but Hauser's 3-point outburst Sunday is a good sign that he's not shying away from the playoff spotlight.

"Sam kind of extended the game in that second quarter," Celtics star Jayson Tatum said of Hauser. "They cut it to three or four, and Sam hit four threes.

"You're gonna need things like that to be successful in the playoffs. It's not always going to be the guys that start the game. On any given night, we're going to count on somebody off the bench to change the pace of the game or kind of mess things up in a good way and change the dynamic of what we're doing."

Teams have to pick their poison against Boston's loaded top six, and that often means allowing open shots to "role players" like Hauser and Pritchard when they're on the floor. But if they can make opponents pay in those scenarios like Hauser did on Sunday, the Celtics will be very hard to beat this postseason.

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