No one saw it coming. Especially not Kristaps Porzingis.
The Celtics were feverishly trying to extend a lead over the Chicago Bulls that was already at 27 points when Derrick White intercepted an inbounds pass in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s In-Season Tournament group play finale. As Jayson Tatum took a feed above the arc, Porzingis — resplendent in his three-piece suit — stood up from the Boston bench and raised one arm in preparation for a celebratory fist pump.
But just as quickly as the pained expression appeared on Porzingis’ face when Tatum’s shot clanged off the rim, a look of pure wonderment washed over him. There was Sam Hauser soaring in from the clouds to deliver an improbable putback dunk that threatened to uproot a delirious TD Garden.
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Luke Kornet, positioned on the opposite side of the basket, threw his hands up in celebration and started raising the roof. Not even a balky calf could stop Porzingis from high-stepping his way onto the court and emphatically slapping hands with Hauser. White skipped a few times in celebration. Al Horford came running from deep on the bench to join the jubilation when the Bulls called timeout.
“Slam Hauser" might not have been well known before the season but he won’t stop dunking lately. And it’s only highlighted Hauser’s impact off the bench (and in spot starts) this season.
The net rating numbers haven’t always shined for Hauser this season but some of his individual numbers certainly do. Some of the more noteworthy numbers for Hauser to start the season:
5: Hauser's total dunks this season
Keeping with the “Slam” theme, Hauser has thrown down five dunks in 18 games. That’s a wild number considering he had just three dunks over his first two seasons (128 games, including playoffs).
When Hauser ventures inside the arc now, he makes it worth his while. He’s shooting 83.3 percent (10 of 12) at the rim this season. In fact, only two of his 129 shot attempts have come anywhere besides the rim or 3-point land.
Hauser knows where his bread is buttered and 3-pointers are his livelihood. But he’s getting to show off some sneaky hops this season while generating some easier buckets.
57.6: Hauser’s 3-point percentage on wide-open 3s
The NBA defines wide open as 6+ feet of space from the nearest defender. Hauser takes roughly half of his shots with that much freedom. Teams that give too much attention to Boston’s All-NBA tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown risk getting burned as Hauser locates space on the perimeter.
For the season, Hauser is shooting 42.6 percent beyond the arc. That number is up at 46.1 percent over the last 15 games, eliminating a 1-for-7 start that he refuses to call a slump.
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Among all high-volume 3-point shooters with more than 100 attempts this season (entering Wednesday’s action), Hauser ranks eighth overall in 3-point percentage. Two of the players immediately ahead of him: Steph Curry and Duncan Robinson, a tandem that knows a thing or two about 3s.
-10.5: Percentage below expected field goal percentage that Hauser is holding opponents on shots inside six feet
The expected output for shots inside of six feet against Hauser is 61.3 percent but he’s holding opponents to 50.8 percent. That’s a solid number considering how often opponents try to attack Hauser and expect to blow by him on the way to the rim.
For the season, opponents are shooting 48.9 percent overall against Hauser, or just 1.7 percent above expected. That’s a decent number and Hauser has held up better than opponents seem to anticipate when teams try to go at him.
The Bucks had some success targeting him but Hauser has otherwise been stout on the defensive end. Especially when teams try to isolate him.
Last season, opponents averaged 0.92 points per play with Hauser defending in isolation. That number is down to 0.86 points per play this season.
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54.8: Hauser’s shooting percentage on all shots off passes from the Jays this season
Boston’s role players need to keep opponents honest. No one has done it better than Hauser, who has thrived this year off feeds from Tatum and Brown. Hauser’s catch-and-shoot abilities are only accentuated when teams are scrambling trying to prevent drives by the Jays.
Hauser has connected on 17 of 31 shots off passes from the Jays this season. Some of their best feeds this year have landed in Hauser’s hands (including one notable sequence against Atlanta when Brown kicked to Hauser in the corner after driving into traffic).
And, remember, it was Brown who tossed that alley-oop to Hauser last week. In a way, he lit the fuse on the whole Slam Hauser trend.