NEW YORK — Jayson Tatum sat at his locker and smiled as he called out to Sam Hauser, a few stalls away.
The two Celtics sharpshooters had just combined to hit 11 of their team’s franchise-record 27 3-pointers in a 133-118 win over the Knicks on Saturday. But to Tatum, one stood out.
He said he’s been waiting for Hauser to create a celebration for his big shots. Tatum, for example, usually throws out a chef’s kiss.
And after one of Hauser’s 3-pointers Saturday, Tatum said, the forward yelled “boom” along with an expletive. Tatum found it funny and could hardly believe it, but also wasn’t sure it quite fits the mild-mannered Hauser, so maybe the wait will go on.
Finding new ways to have fun is the easy part, of course. But the Celtics continue to make the hard parts look easy, too. They are now averaging 117.5 points per 100 possessions, tied for the second best offensive rating in the NBA, along with averaging a league-leading 16 made 3-pointers per game.
With big men Robert Williams (knee surgery), Al Horford (back soreness), and Luke Kornet (personal reasons) all sidelined, the Celtics quickly made it clear that this game would be decided much farther from the hoop.
“For the most part I thought we shot great 3s,” interim coach Joe Mazzulla said. “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. 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.”
Nine of the Celtics’ first 10 shots came from beyond the 3-point arc, and that was a harbinger, not an accident. They spread the floor with shooters and sprayed from all angles.
Hauser hit a career-high five and was unaware of the team record after the game. When it was relayed to him, he raised his eyebrows.
“Oh, wow,” he said.
Fourth-string center Noah Vonleh drilled his first 3-pointer since February 2020. All nine Celtics who appeared in the game made at least one.
This approach was nothing new for Tatum, of course, and his step-back dart with 3:34 left in the game both set the franchise’s single-game record and essentially put the finishing touches on the win.
“I think we were just real confident in the shots we were getting, the way the ball was moving,” Tatum said, “Guys were in the right spots getting the shots we want them to shoot, and we were knocking shots down, so that always helps.”
The Celtics made 27 of 51 3-pointers overall, breaking their old mark of 25. They fell two short of tying the NBA record of 29, held by the Bucks. Jaylen Brown finished with 30 points, Tatum added 26, and Marcus Smart had an efficient night, with 13 points, 11 assists and just 1 turnover.
“I’m just doing all the right things,” Smart said. “I’m getting downhill, finding guys, they’re making shots. When I’m able to have 11 assists or more, it’s really hard for us to be beat, and it does help a rhythm. You got Jayson and Jaylen just spotting up and knocking down easier shots. You got Grant [Williams] and Sam hitting those easier shots, and then it just makes the game that much easier for us.”
For the second game in a row, the defense was hardly perfect. The Knicks shot 51.1 percent and had success attacking the rim against Boston’s depleted frontcourt. New York lingered for most of the night, despite Boston’s scorching shooting.
The Knicks clawed back from a 14-point first-half deficit and briefly led, by three, early in the third quarter. New York still trailed just 116-112 with 4:51 left in the fourth. But a pair of 3-pointers by Tatum extended the lead, then Williams added to the record-setting night with one more in the final minute.
“Because of our spacing we can get a really good look the majority of the time,” Mazzulla said. “Right now, we’re learning what’s a great shot and what’s a good shot, and we’re also learning that if we miss four in a row, we still have to guard the other end.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.