As the Boston Celtics hired coach ime udoka, adjustments and adapting to his system and philosophy were expected. Currently, their win-loss record is at 12-10, which is tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Even with their over .500 slate, the Celtics could have been a top-two team in the conference if they did not surrender massive fourth-quarter leads, as they are only two games behind the second seed.
The Celtics began the month of December on a winning vote, via a pulsating one-point victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Their defense has been suffocating as they have the fifth-highest defensive rating in the league.
But even with their defensive success, there are still numerous concerns with the Celtics as they board for their grueling five-game Western Conference road trip. As they continue this stretch, this month could dictate the pace of the rest of their season.
All their opponents are over.500
Currently, all the opponents of the Celtics for the month of December are teams that are sporting a record of over .500. They will have a back-to-back against the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday, followed by two successive games against both LA teams at Staples Center. The trip wraps up with a matchup against the best team in the NBA, the red-hot Phoenix Suns.
Even when the Celtics return to TD Garden for a short homestand, their opponents will be a tough out as well. The Celtics just had their whole roster available for the sixth time in their win against the Sixers, thus the chemistry is still in its early developing stage. As Beantown is faced with a difficult schedule, Udoka hopes to have a full roster for the majority of this month. This juncture will also test their mettle against the best of the best.
Shooting inefficiencies of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown
Entering his fifth NBA season, Tatum was already expected to his level to superstardom, but that has not been the case yet for the first 22 games. He has had spurts of scoring over 30 points or catapulting the Celtics to impressive victories, but those performances have not been consistent. Tatum is shooting an atrocious 39.7 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from behind the arc. As a basis of comparison, Tatum has been shooting over 45 percent and above 37 percent, respectively over the course of his career.
Brown has been hampered with a hamstring issue as he has missed nine games already this season. He began the year with a spectacular 46-point performance at Madison Square Garden, but Brown has struggled with his shot after his lengthy absence. His hamstring has been bothering him as seen through his lateral quickness and burst of speed on his drives. Udoka has made it a point to limit his minutes as he is also to sit out a couple of games in December to rest his injury.
Constant injuries and missed games
As previously mentioned, the Celtics have only played six games with a full roster because of a plethora of injuries to their core pieces. Brown has missed nine games, but he is not the only one that has been in-and-out of the lineup as Robert Williams III, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson have missed numerous games as well. Horford contracted the COVID-19 virus, forcing him to sit out a couple of games.
Williams and Richardson incurred illnesses last week, with the former continually feeling some pain and issues with the lower extremities of his body. As the Celtics embark on this crucial 15-game month, they must aspire to have a complete lineup.
If the Celtics are able to have an over .500 record after December, that will be a terrific achievement for a franchise that has championship aspirations every season. The difference among all contenders in the Eastern Conference is not far apart, thus the Celtics cannot go on a dry spell and experience a losing streak this month.
They must continually employ their defensive identity as their offensive rhythm will hopefully materialize for the Celtics to remain as one of the serious contenders.