A wish for health, success and consistency for Celtics as 2022 approaches

Dec 22, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Enes Freedom (13) reacts as forward Justin Jackson (44) exits the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 22, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Enes Freedom (13) reacts as forward Justin Jackson (44) exits the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

A recent home stand for the Boston Celtics did not go according to plan. Considering however, that the team was using a patchwork roster of youth, stragglers, and veterans — including the return of Joe Johnson — that they won at all is a plus.

More success than failure occurred, with Boston posting a 3-2 record in this TD Garden stretch. The Celtics have climbed back to .500 (16-16) and currently sit in the 8th-spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, six games back from the top seed.

This home stand included wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and a Wednesday night 111-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavs, who were the conference’s third-seed prior to the game.

Encouraging signs as Celtics get players back from health and safety protocols. Winning games without a full compliment is nice, especially coupled with the return of Jaylen Brown. It’s not hard to imagine a full roster getting locked in and reeling off a nice win streak.

A Boston Celtics duo looking for a third

A lot of focus has been placed on Boston’s supporting cast — rightfully so — and the talent that surrounds Brown and Jayson Tatum. And while the likes of Marcus Smart, Dennis Schroder, and Grant Williams, to name a few, have been major contributors this season, one player is consistently rising above.

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He’s the man in the middle; a lord of time who is on the precipice of reaching another level.

Robert Williams III has missed eight games this season but in the 24 he has played in, he’s proving again to be a valuable player on the Celtics.

Williams does occasionally have stretches of games where he disappears but he is coming off his best performance of the season in the victory over Cleveland.

To begin with, there was the season-high 21 points. Williams added 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in filling out the box score.

Scoring isn’t the most important thing for Williams, who is averaging nearly 10 points per game. Bumping up that number to 12-14 would be perfect, considering he is shooting nearly 75 percent this season.

Consistency in the rebounding department would be nice, as the early part of December Williams struggled. As of late, Williams has returned to form, averaging 10 per game, slightly higher than his season average of 8.3.

Tatum leads in that department, with 8.6 rebounds per game. His December continues to be an impressive one, averaging 8.8 rebounds. The lowest total he’s posted is five and he has three-straight games of nine boards.

Tatum is averaging 28.2 points in December, though he’s only had 35 combined in the last two games on 11-33 shooting. Tatum, however, is averaging 5.5 assists in those games and doing a lot of things well to bolster the Celtics.

Brown’s return has been a delight. He had 34 points in the victory over Cleveland, his fifth-game back. Brown has 20 or more points in four of those games and twice has hit 50 percent or higher from the field.

This trio, plus a wish for good health, will be needed as Boston closes out the calendar year.

Boston Celtics upcoming schedule

The Celtics playing on Christmas Day has become NBA tradition and this season is no different, with Boston appearing for the sixth-straight year.

They will look to improve upon their 15-19 Christmas Day record when they hit the road to take on the Bucks. The Celtics have won both matchups against Milwaukee this season.

The Christmas Day game is tentatively the first of four games for the Celtics to close out 2021. On 12/27, Boston will stay on the road in visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are much-improved this season as the teams play each other for the first time in 2021-22.

Boston then returns home to welcome a couple of Western Conference teams they lost to in the team’s recent west coast swing.

On 12/29, the Los Angeles Clippers arrive, followed by a New Year’s Eve game against the Phoenix Suns. Boston lost to the Clippers by three and the Suns by 21.

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These final four games before the new year are a prime opportunity for the Boston Celtics to get things on a consistent track. Granted, health and other factors will play into it. But if Tatum and Brown are on the court, there’s a good chance the Celtics could walk away with a 4-0 record in this span.

A 2-2 record might be more realistic considering how this team has played this season. Anything better than that and dreams of a bright, new 2022 can enter the picture.