On Monday night against the Wizards, the Celtics bench struggled mightily in the fourth quarter, ultimately outscored 32 to 18 and raising questions about the reserves’ ability to put points on the board.
Just two nights later, in a blowout win against the Pacers, the bench quelled those concerns, exploding for a 46-point fourth quarter that marked the most points scored in a quarter by any team in the NBA this season.
Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard bounced back from a lackluster shooting performance in Washington (3-18 combined for the field) to explode for an efficient 32 points on 11-17 field goals last night.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s game against Indiana, Joe Mazzulla insisted he wasn’t worried about the bench struggles.
“They’re getting really good looks, especially Payton and Sam,” Mazzulla said. “Those two guys can’t pass up open shots, they’ve got to continue to be aggressive. Those are two guys that have done a lot of good things for us over the last couple of years, so they’ll be fine.”
Sometimes, the coach just knows best — Pritchard, Hauser, and the rest of the second unit certainly bounced back. Mazzulla said he was encouraged by their approach and intentionality.
“They were organized, they got to their spots faster,” he said. “Payton did a good job organizing, I thought Dalano got to their spacing, they ran plays for Sam, all of those guys — Luke, Lamar, Oshae, and Svi. We played with more of a sense of purpose, and they managed the game that way.”
Mazzulla commended Pritchard’s execution, describing the point guard’s improved game management as “really fun to watch.” Pritchard finished the night with 15 points and 9 assists in 26 minutes, and didn’t turn the ball over a single time.
“As he’s coming down the court, he has a great balance of: ‘do I have something for myself? How do I manage? What set can I call based on where guys are at?’” Mazzulla said. “He’s really grown in that area of managing the offense, of getting to the right set quickly. His situational basketball has really, really gotten better over the last year and a half.”
Sam Hauser exploded for four fourth-quarter three-pointers — all of which were assisted by Pritchard. He finished the game with 17 points on 5-6 from three in just 19 minutes.
Sam Hauser points package? Sam Hauser points package. pic.twitter.com/xVZbWfgg92— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 2, 2023
After the game, Hauser said that having to adjust to personnel changes has contributed to his shooting struggles, and that as he continues to develop chemistry with his new teammates, he expects his shot to fall.
“Being able to knock some shots down and find my footing a little bit today was awesome,” Hauser said.
Yesterday in practice, Mazzulla met with the second and third units to review film and dive deeper into what went wrong in the fourth quarter against Washington. Hauser said the session proved particularly useful in instilling clarity among the reserves.
“That was important, to have him talk to us about our roles and what we’re supposed to do when we come in in a situation like that and we’re up big — what things we’re looking to do on offense, what things we’re looking to do on defense,” Hauser said.
Joe’s overarching message to the bench? Take care of the ball, rebound, and play defense. The rest will follow. And last night, this attention to detail certainly paid dividends.
Dalano Banton also reached double figures (11 points) in 8 minutes off the bench, and every single active Celtic in the game — including Lamar Stevens, Oshae Brissett, Luke Kornet, Al Horford, and Svi Mykhailiuk — got on the scoreboard. The reserves combined for just one turnover, and shot 63% from the field in the fourth.
The bench could have struggled again last night, and it wouldn’t have mattered — this one was a blowout from start to finish. But, Hauser, Pritchard and others will play a key role for Boston many nights this season, and their ability to execute could have far-reaching implications.
In the postgame presser, Mazzulla was asked if he is able to relax when the game is far out of reach for the opposing team. The answer was a resounding no.
“That’s because there are five guys that are in the game that have worked their ass off to get to that spot, and the best thing I feel like I can do for them is coach them,” Mazzulla said. “That’s what they want, and they’re looking for that. I try to coach as if it’s the first quarter out of respect for the guys that are on the floor because of the work that they put in.”