Boston Celtics in search of four-leaf clover on return home

Dec 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) looks down during the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) looks down during the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

A tough road trip behind them, the Boston Celtics return home looking for stability, health, and perhaps a little bit of good luck.

The first third of the 2021-22 season has seen very little of those things. A 1-4 west coast trip, culminating in a lackluster loss to Phoenix, has the Celtics simply not looking that good.

Though, as with anything else regarding the Boston franchise in recent years, there’s a lot contributing to their slow start.

In many ways, it’s the same problems hampering this season’s team that caused struggles the last couple of seasons. Inconsistent shooting from three-point range, injuries, mediocre bench play, and not playing with the full compliment of players for regular stretches have hampered this team.

Slowly, the team is getting healthy, and could finally be close to full roster strength with the — fingers crossed — impending return of Jaylen Brown.

Two stars need to align for Boston Celtics

Brown has been dealing with a hamstring injury. And, at this point of the season, I’d rather see him fully healed or as close to 100 percent as possible before returning. There’s no need to rush him out there, as was evident in his nine-point performance in his last game on December 1.

Struggles with Brown stretched back even further. He hasn’t scored more than 20 points in a game since dropping 28 in a November 3 over Orlando. And while he came out torching opponents in the early-going, Brown and Jayson Tatum have struggled to have games they are capable of at the same time.

Tatum’s shooting was the problem much of the season’s first month or so but he has turned things around as of late. December is only six games old for the Celtics but Tatum is averaging 30.1 ppg in those contests and is shooting a respectable 48.1 percent.

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He’s also going to work on the boards, averaging 9.5 per game in December, three times achieving a double-double.

Turnovers would be one aspect to cut back on for Tatum, as he had 15 the last three games.

Boston, once Brown returns, needs both he and Tatum to score about 50-55 points between the two of them. That’s not asking terribly a lot of these two young scorers, whose similar style of play have many speculating about whether the duo needs to be split up.

Brown and Tatum can co-exist, as proven by, well their entire careers in Boston. A consistent third scorer on this team is needed. While Marcus Smart, Rob Williams III, and Al Horford still can pop-up for a 20-25 effort now-and-then, it’s Boston’s new arrival that could make the difference in righting this ship.

Boston Celtics: A bona-fide scorer off the bench

Some of the best teams in NBA history have the one bench player that you know can enter game and just torch opponents with a load of points in a matter of minutes.

It’s a role that’s been missing from Boston for quite some time now, at least on a consistent basis. And Dennis Schroder could very well be that person. If only he’d get out of the starting lineup.

Jokes aside, Schroder has been doing a fine job this season with the Celtics. He’s averaging 17.5 points and 4.9 assists per game and been filling in as the starter in Brown’s absence.

A healthy Brown means Schroder can be that microwave off the bench. It’s the second unit where Boston often finds itself struggling to produce points. Schroder could end up with more minutes than Smart and it gives the Celtics options in close games to exchange offense for defense, and vice versa, with Smart and Schroder.

Grant Williams is enjoying the best season of his young career, giving Celtics good minutes in both a starting and bench role.

Part of the problem is a lack of continuity in rotations. Partly affixed to injuries and partly affixed to a (mostly) young bench, the bench has lacked consistency. It doesn’t help matters that only Tatum and Grant Williams are the only players to have played in all 27 games this season.

Brown has only played in 13 and even solid contributors like Rob Williams and Josh Richardson have each missed seven games. This has hampered a defense, too, that had a brief stretch where they performed well but mostly have been a lazy and not dialed in bunch. Getting a healthy roster would help shore up some of their deficiencies on that end of the court.

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As bleak as things seem for the Celtics, there’s definitely a chance to catch fire. Five straight games at home await the team. The week ahead doesn’t necessarily get much easier, with games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, and New York Knicks. With Brown or without, a 2-1 week will be telling of where this team is. An 0-3 week and, well, it won’t be time to ring all the alarm bells, but you know more than a few will join the others already going off.