BOSTON – Heading into the Boston Celtics’ Friday night matchup against the Toronto Raptors, Sam Hauser hadn’t recorded a dunk in the NBA. He was 0-for-1 on dunk attempts. But in his second-straight start, he exploded, notching three dunks in one game.
“I haven’t had that many dunks in a game since high school,” Hauser said after the game.
Head coach Joe Mazzulla deadpanned Hauser’s slamathon was “a new thing,” noting he’s never broken out any slams in practice.
Needless to say, the Celtics bench went bananas when Hauser threw it down.
The C's bench lost their minds on that Hauser dunk pic.twitter.com/ZbORIVTePd— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 8, 2023
“When you don’t do something very often, and when you do, it gets everyone [excited],” Hauser said. “Even when I see other people do things, it gets me excited. So, I’m glad that they showed some emotion, and it’s cool to see them celebrating something I did.”
A three-dunk night was the perfect way to cap off an incredible Celtics win, and Jayson Tatum was particularly baffled by the showing.
“I think you saw our reaction— we were caught off guard for sure,” said Tatum. “But we were pretty pumped and excited for him because I’ve never really seen Sam do that.”
Fresh off of a clutch win over Toronto on Wednesday night to clinch the two-seed in the East, the Celtics didn’t hold back on Friday night. Down two starters and Malcolm Brogdon, a leading Sixth Man of the Year Candidate, Hauser led the team in scoring.
SAM HAUSER DUNK ALERT pic.twitter.com/4xyYFOk1H3— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 8, 2023
He poured in a career-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor and 6-of-12 shooting from behind the three-point line, leading Boston to a blowout victory.
“Sam is a big part of our team and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Tatum said post-game. “It’s just a testament to how hard he’s worked, especially this offseason and this season, to be prepared for moments like this.”
Boston’s depth has allowed them to persevere through absences, giving them some leeway when it comes to preserving the health of their top players. Hauser’s ability to step up and play a huge offensive role has been crucial to the team’s success.
Including Friday night’s game, in which he logged 36:57, Hauser has played 20-plus minutes in 24 games this season. When he earns that much playing time, he’s averaged 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists on 48.6% shooting from the floor and 47.2% from deep.
His attempts increase in those games, too. Hauser puts up 7.9 total shots and 6.8 threes per game in those contests, blowing his season stats out of the water.
“When we have a full roster, I don’t really know if I’ll play or not, but I’m always ready,” Hauser explained. “And I know I’m going to be locked in during the timeouts and huddles and make sure I know what’s going on, so if my number is called, I’m ready to go.”
With the postseason just a week away, the Celtics will need to make some tough rotational decisions. Having so many talented players is a blessing and a curse, and Hauser doesn’t always fit into the rotation.
But regardless of his status, Hauser understands the challenge ahead of him, and if the situation calls for it, he’ll bring his full effort, and maybe even a dunk, onto the court in the playoffs.
“Obviously, the playoffs are a big step up from the regular season in terms of the attention to detail and intensity, so I got to be ready for it,” said Hauser.