There weren’t many positive takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ loss to the Orlando Magic. Down three key rotational players, Orlando continued to act as kryptonite for the Celtics, who lost the season series against the Magic 1-3.
But amongst the chaos was Sam Hauser, who hadn’t played double-digit minutes since January 9 and had earned two straight DNPs heading into the contest. On a night when Boston would need to rely on their depth, he delivered.
“Sam played great,” Jayson Tatum said post-game via CLNS Media. “Obviously, we know he can really shoot the ball, but he had a contest at the rim, he blocked the shot, he came off a pick-n-roll, came down [and] made a layup. I think just being more of a basketball player. He’s so much more than just a shooter. So, I really enjoy when he just makes those basketball plays. I don’t want to box him in as just a catch-and-shoot guy. Sam’s a really, really talented basketball player.”
Hauser ended the night with 13 points, two rebounds, an assist, and a block on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 shooting from deep. He logged 18:52 - the most minutes he’s played since Boston’s January 3 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the second-most since their December 7 win over the Phoenix Suns.
The last time Hauser made three or more threes in a game was back on November 28 against the Charlotte Hornets. And while Tatum stressed Hauser’s ability to contribute in other areas of the game, his pathway to playing time runs through his shot-making.
“Just the ebbs and flows of the season,” Hauser told CLNS Media when asked about head coach Joe Mazzulla’s communication with him about his role. “Payton [Pritchard]’s been playing really well, other guys have been playing really well, so he’s rolling with them, and that’s cool. As a coach, you have to feel it out, and what’s working [is] working, you have to stay with that. And if that means some guys get demoted to their minutes, it is what it is. So, nothing really to complain about, I just gotta keep working.”
Pritchard and Hauser have flip-flopped in the rotation over the last week or so. At the start of the year, Pritchard was picking up DNPs, while Hauser was red-hot from distance. Now, it’s the opposite, as Pritchard has emerged as an important sparkplug off of Boston’s bench, and Hauser has struggled to find his shot.
Through the end of November, Hauser was unstoppable from behind the arc. He was shooting 47.9% from deep on 4.4 three-point attempts per game, earning 17.0 minutes per contest - and he didn’t miss a single game. But in the games since, things trailed off, as he’s shot just 30.4% on 3.3 attempts. A cold stretch that was capped off by his first two DNPs of the season against the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.
But despite the lack of success, Hauser doesn’t plan on changing a thing.
“Honestly, not really,” Hauser said via CLNS Media when asked if he’s looking to adjust anything. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with my shot. They just haven’t been falling as much lately. Shooters go through slumps and I’ve definitely been through one lately, but just gotta keep shooting.”
Hauser earned high praise from Mazzulla early in the season, as the coach gave a simple response when asked about how the forward earned his trust - “not miss.” And while there have been plenty of misses since then, he finally saw a few shots go down against Orlando.
With how talented Boston is, Hauser’s spot in the rotation is not guaranteed, but if he’s hitting threes at the level he’s capable of, it’s hard to keep him off the floor. And because of that, staying confident is key.
“I just don’t want my confidence to waver, and that’s the biggest thing,” Hauser told CLNS Media. “When you go through a slump, I think it’s easy to kind of go into a shell a little bit of yourself, and sometimes you have to dig yourself out of it. That’s how I’m doing.”
It’s easy to get down on oneself when subjected to the track Hauser has been on this year. He worked hard through the first month of the season to establish himself as a mainstay in Mazzulla’s rotations and was automatic from three-point range for a long while.
So to go from that to picking up DNPs and failing to capitalize on open three-point attempts is a dagger. But rather than let those lows keep him down, Hauser used them to lift him up.
“Oh honestly, not playing last couple games, it motivates you to work harder,” Hauser told CLNS Media. “And when you get your chance you don’t want to take it for granted, and you just want to give it your all. So I think I did that pretty well tonight.”