Celtics

7 takeaways as Jayson Tatum, Celtics set franchise record in win over Knicks

Every player made a 3-pointer. The three biggest contributors? Jayson Tatum (6-for-13), Jaylen Brown (6-for-11) and Sam Hauser (5-for-8).

Jessie Alcheh
Jaylen Brown and the Celtics started off the game by launching 3-pointers on nine of their first 10 shots.

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics fell in love with the 3-pointer … and won by double-digits with a 133-118 victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. 

Here are the takeaways. 

1. The Celtics set a franchise record for 3-pointers made, shooting an otherworldly 27-for-51 (52.9 percent) from the floor. Every player who played made a 3-pointer, even Blake Griffin (1-for-2) and Noah Vonleh (1-for-1) who got extended minutes with Luke Kornet away from the team. The three biggest contributors? Jayson Tatum (6-for-13), Jaylen Brown (6-for-11) and Sam Hauser (5-for-8), who combined for 17 of the 27. 

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Tatum recorded the record-breaking 26th triple, while Grant Williams added No. 27 in the closing minutes for good measure.

2. On a night when the entire offense was excellent, perhaps the most impressive individual performance belonged to Marcus Smart. Smart pitched in three triples of his own, but he also dished out 11 assists and recorded just one turnover. 

3. The Celtics’ bench unit continued to excel — Noah Vonleh (+20), Malcolm Brogdon (+20) and Sam Hauser (+14) led the team in plus/minus, while Grant Williams was +10. Once again, Brogdon was excellent as the engine of the group, while Williams and Hauser provided floor spacing around him. 

The Celtics also experimented with a couple of other looks, including Brown instead of Tatum as part of the unit. Tinkering with the Bench Death Lineup could be an interesting way to squeeze some more offense out of it. 

4. Hauser scored a career-high 17 points. When he goes off over a short stretch, his shooting looks demoralizing for an opponent — counteracting a sudden 6- or 9-point swing isn’t easy. If the Celtics’ bench continues to excel, it’s probably worth wondering how the Celtics can keep players like Hauser on the floor a little longer. 

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“I can be playing a lot of minutes like I did tonight, I can be playing not that many minutes like I did a couple nights ago,” Hauser told reporters. “Just got to be ready for whatever I’m asked to do, and I’ll be ready when my number is called.”

Hauser is well aware that could make his case for minutes stronger if he improves on the defensive end, since opponents appear ruthlessly determined to pick on him.

“I think I still got work to do,” Hauser said. “I know I’m going to be involved in a lot of actions, and I have to hold my ground a little bit better. So that’s something I’ve got to work on, but overall, I think I’m getting better. …

“Defense is tough, and something you can always be better at. So something I’m going to keep trying to do better. Watch some film, learn from it and grow from there.”

Smart said the Celtics are proud of Hauser for the enormous strides he has made.

“They do go at him, and we tell him all the time to be expecting it,” Smart said. “When we’re in practice, we go at him to get him ready for how he’s going to need to be able to handle himself, and we tip our hat off to him. He’s doing a great job.”

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5. The Knicks outscored the Celtics 60-34 in the paint and still lost by 15 points. The 3-point line — behind which the Celtics outscored the Knicks by a staggering total of 81-33 — is a powerful weapon.

Earlier this season, Mazzulla — when asked about the Celtics shooting a lot of triples — noted that he likes math. 

“For the most part, I thought we shot great threes,” Mazzulla told reporters on Saturday. “Our guys are getting comfortable with the fact that when we run good offense and we have good spacing, and we read the defense, we’re going to get a great look. I’d say when you’re shooting that volume, there’s going to be some tough ones, but for the most part, I think our guys do a great job of shooting the right ones.”

6. The best news for the Celtics on Saturday? Robert Williams is making progress. Williams traveled with the team to New York and spoke to reporters in the locker room before the game. According to Williams, he is dunking again (although he is careful not to use too much explosion). Williams said he is “hitting checkmarks”

“You’re always kind of nervous, but that’s kind of why they give me a window, just in case we try something and there’s a setback you’ve got time to deal with it,” Williams said.

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Williams didn’t offer an update on his timeline. Friday marked six weeks since his injury. The Celtics have previously said to expect 8-to-12 weeks for his recovery. 

7. The Celtics’ offense is now averaging 118.5 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass, which is the best total in the NBA so far this season. Encouragingly for the Celtics, they have been destroying teams in the half-court — per Cleaning the Glass, the Celtics have the league’s best half-court offense at 108.3 points per 100 plays (league average is 95.4). 

Scoring efficiently in transition is typically easier than scoring efficiently in half-court sets. So far, the Celtics appear to have the hard part figured out. 

The Celtics take on the NBA’s second-best offense to date on Monday when they travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies.

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