The Celtics netted 22 3-pointers against the Charlotte Hornets en route to a 134-93 blowout win in their preseason debut at TD Garden.
Sunday’s matinee featured an efficient performance from Jaylen Brown — who scored a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 attempts, including 3-for-5 from deep. Jayson Tatum finished with 16 points, six rebounds, and a pair of steals, and Celtics prospect Sam Hauser showcased his outside touch.
Hauser was impressive throughout what turned out to be a critical second quarter, where Boston created its game-defining separation. He drained 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc in a quarter where the Celtics outscored the Hornets 39-22.
Hauser led interim head coach Joe Mazzulla’s second unit with 14 points, including 4-of-5 from 3, three rebounds, and one steal in 19 minutes.
“I thought he played well, thought he was in the right spots trying to make the right play,” Mazzulla said postgame during media availability. “We got a bunch of guys that have the ability to make shots and really play well together, and he fits right into that.”
Sam also fits in seamlessly on the defensive end of the floor, where he’s progressed in defending the wing positions on countless switches. He finished with a team-high plus-26 rating.
With the loss of Danilo Gallinari, who will most likely miss the regular season after tearing his left ACL playing for Italy in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers over the summer, Hauser has a chance at earning significant playing time for Mazzulla this season.
Gallinari’s 3-point shot was one of the reasons why the Celtics coveted the 13-year veteran during free agency. Hauser is hoping to fill that void, and if Sunday’s performance indicates what the 2022-23 Celtics offensive identity will look like, seven-year veteran Malcolm Brogdon will help ease the transition.
Brogdon, who tallied 11 points, a game-high nine assists, and five rebounds, made his presence felt on both ends of the floor Sunday afternoon, especially when he had the ball in his hands as the team’s facilitator. The Celtics’ spacing was at its best when Brogdon was in the game, which Sam took full advantage of from when he checked into the game.
Therefore, it was no coincidence that Brogdon was credited an assist for every 3-pointer Hauser drained in the first half (3).
“I like to keep versatility. I think there are so many great teams in the league, and one thing we got good at last year was being flexible with what we do,” Mazzulla said. “So, I want to try to maintain that as much as we can. I think it’s important. As far as Smart and Brogdon, they’re two players that have great intentions, that are physical on both ends of the floor, and want to make the right play. I really noticed that today and those two have great leadership; they’re out there to make other people better.”
The Celtics will take on the Toronto Raptors in their second exhibition matchup on Wednesday at TD Garden.