Celtics hit franchise-record 27 3-pointers vs. Knicks as secret weapon Sam Hauser has breakout performance

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The Boston Celtics got to the NBA Finals last season on the back of a dominant defense that stifled opponents round after round. This season, the formula has been a bit different. So far, they have struggled to stop opponents, due in large part to Robert Williams III being sidelined with a knee injury, but have been scoring at will on the other end. 

Their firepower was on full display on Saturday night as they hit a franchise-record 27 3-pointers in their 133-118 win over the New York Knicks. That mark is tied for the fourth-most in a game in NBA history and just two short of the all-time record of 29 set by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020. 

“It felt amazing,” Marcus Smart said. “[Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla] was just preaching to us, ‘Don’t get tired, we’re playing the right way.’ I think every coach preaches that, but to see it actually happen in action is a thing of beauty.”

“It’s good for us. It felt good for guys to hit shots, felt good for the team to see how we play when we play that way and the things we can do, so we have to keep preaching that, we have to keep working.”

All nine players who checked into the game for the Celtics hit at least one triple, including Noah Vonleh who took and made his first 3 of the season. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way as per usual with six triples apiece, as they combined for 56 points in another strong showing for their partnership. 

Perhaps the most notable shooting performance, however, was from Sam Hauser. The undrafted forward out of Marquette and Virginia split time between the Celtics and their G League affiliate last season, and while he didn’t play significant minutes in the playoffs he showed the team enough in practice and in summer league to earn a guaranteed three-year, $6 million deal. Now, he’s showing why the Celtics were eager to lock him down. 

Hauser went 5-of-8 from downtown against the Knicks en route to a career-high 17 points. For the season he’s 17-of-31 from downtown, a 54.1 percent mark that’s good for fourth in the league on the official leaderboard. One of the best pure shooters around, Hauser has improved enough in other aspects of the game that he can stay on the floor and put his skills to use. 

The Celtics are reaping the benefits, as they’ve boasted an outrageous 127.9 offensive rating with Hauser on the floor. In the specific 56 minutes that Hauser has played with Tatum, the Celtics’ offensive rating jumps even higher to 133.1. Opponents have to pick between a deadly poison: either let Tatum see an open lane to the basket or send help and leave Hauser (or another of the Celtics’ strong shooters) alone on the perimeter. 

“Once you get the first couple to go it opens it up a little bit,” Hauser said. “Yeah I definitely had a lot of confidence tonight and I think I’m getting my feet under me and getting more comfortable knowing these guys and where I’m supposed to be. So I’m just going to keep playing off them and doing my part.”

The Celtics aren’t satisfied with their defense to this point and will need to improve on that end as the season goes along. Until then, they’ve proven their offense is dynamic enough to simply outscore teams. They are tied for first in offensive rating (117.5), second in 3-point attempts per game (40.7), fifth in 3-point percentage (39.3), and, perhaps most importantly, fifth in turnover percentage (13.6). 

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