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Sam Hauser shows potential to impact series in Celtics’ Game 1 win vs. Heat – NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON – After a win over the Chicago Bulls in late March, Sam Hauser gave a preview.

“You’re motivated in games like this to just show what you can do,” Hauser said after hitting seven of eight 3-pointers, leading to an 11-point Celtics victory. “(You want) to show the coaches, ‘If you throw me in a certain game in the playoffs, I’m good to go.’”

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon at TD Garden in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, where head coach Joe Mazzulla gave Hauser the first meaningful postseason minutes of his career. The Celtics’ sharpshooter responded by drilling four of four 3-pointers in the second quarter as part of a 12-point outburst, allowing Boston to extend a slim five-point lead to 15 at halftime.

Hauser’s three-point barrage was no surprise to anyone who followed the Celtics during the regular season. The 26-year-old hit a career-high 197 3-pointers in 79 games at a 42.4 percent clip, good for 11th in the entire NBA. But there’s a reason why Hauser was so eager to prove himself in the playoffs.

Hauser has barely cracked Boston’s 2023 playoff rotation, averaging just 6.9 minutes per game in 15 appearances. He only played 22 minutes total in the Celtics Eastern Conference Finals series loss to the Heat. In fact, Hauser’s 12 points in one quarter Sunday was more than he scored in that entire series (10 points in five outings).

However, Hauser has played a much bigger role on this Celtics team and Mazzulla clearly plans to continue that trend in the postseason.

“You can’t go into the playoffs and shut those guys out,” Mazzulla said of the Celtics’ bench, which combined for 30 points from the trio of Hauser, Al Horford (10) and Payton Pritchard (eight). “You have to give them the opportunity because they just bring a different dynamic to the game. We need our bench, we need our depth to maximize the opportunity that we have. They’ve done a great job.”

After the Celtics parted ways with reigning Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and 3-and-D forward Grant Williams last summer, there were questions about how Boston’s bench would hold up. After the Celtics’ “Stay Ready” group — led by Hauser, Pritchard and Luke Kornet — flourished during the regular season, some still wondered if that success would translate into the postseason.

One game is obviously a small sample size, but Hauser’s 3-point outburst on Sunday is a good sign that he won’t shy away from the spotlight in the playoffs.

“Sam extended the game in that second quarter,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said of Hauser. “They cut it down to three or four, and Sam hit four threes.

“You need those kinds of things to be successful in the play-offs. It’s not always the guys who start the game. Every night we count on someone from the bench to change the pace of the games.” the game or screw things up in a good way and change the dynamic of what we do.”

Teams have to pick their poison against Boston’s loaded top six, and that often means allowing open shots to “role players” like Hauser and Pritchard when they’re on the floor. But if they can make opponents pay in scenarios like Hauser did on Sunday, the Celtics will be very difficult to beat this postseason.

HIGHLIGHTS: Celtics blow out Heat 114-94, win Game 1