For the first time since the opening week of the season, there wasn’t a ton to like about the Celtics’ play. They went 2-2, which isn’t terrible, but it was more about who/how they lost. A blowout to the lowly Bulls and a loss at home against the shorthanded Jazz left a bad taste in your mouth, and wins over Denver and Memphis weren’t convincing enough to cure that. The Celtics are working through one of the most grueling parts of their schedule. Fatigue has played a big factor, but Boston hasn’t done a good enough job working through it. The next few weeks will tell us a lot about this team, but until then, lets check out some Ups/Downs from Week 9 of Celtics’ action.

The Downs


The Celtics’ Bench Is Regressing to the Mean

During Boston’s 16-game winning streak, team defense and grittiness covered up some of the offensive deficiencies of the bench. In the last few weeks, though, those issues became more glaring. With Marcus Morris sidelined with more knee soreness, the Celtics’ bench has been even less effective than usual. As of Dec. 17, the Boston bench is ranked 23rd in scoring (30.4) and dead last in field goal percentage (37.4 percent). The bench is streaky and can get hot, especially at home, but the Celtics need a more consistent effort on the offensive end. Brad Stevens may need to think about switching up his rotations to avoid such devastating droughts.

Kyrie Sitting Out

Missing Parts Make the Machine Slow Down

During the Stevens era in Boston, the Celtics have run like a machine. With no transcendent talent prior to this year, you could swap personnel without too much going wrong. But adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward cost the Celtics some depth, and replacing All-Stars with rookies makes for a very obvious drop-off in talent. When Kyrie misses time, Boston struggles to make up that gap. We saw that in a loss to the Bulls last Monday. When everyone is healthy, this team is dangerous. But take out a few key pieces, and the high-powered machine starts to look like a beat-up toaster you found at a garage sale.

Rebounding Has Become an Issue, Again

After being a terrible rebounding team last season, the Celtics started this year’s campaign as one of the better rebounding teams in the league. Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis, and some great rebounding guards limited second-chance points and cleaned up defensive possessions. Through November the Celtics ranked in the top-10 in rebounding. Over nine games in December they rank 23rd. Boston doesn’t need to win the rebounding battle every game to win, but they do need to keep it close. The Celtics got out rebounded by at least 18 in two out of the four games last week, and that won’t cut it.

The Ups

The Celtics Don’t Stay Down

With the exception of the first two games of the season, the Celtics have not lost back-to-back games all season. With the recent stretch of, lets say, not so pleasant play, Boston has found a way to bounce back after each loss. A team this young could allow bad losses to turn into losing streaks, but thus far the Celtics have been able to compartmentalize ugly performances and stop any negative momentum.

Shane Larkin Remains a Quality Backup

Shane Larkin

With Morris missing extended time, the Celtics were looking for some extra pop off the bench. Larkin has been a pleasant surprise this season and, much like a change-of-pace back in football, makes the most of his limited opportunities. Larkin competes on the defensive end, runs the pick-and-roll well, and has shown the ability to add a scoring punch off the deep bench. His 14 points on 6-6 shooting against Denver really helped turn the tides in Boston’s favor.

The Youngsters Bounce Back/Show What They Can Do

Jaylen Brown

Both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum bounced back from some less than ideal play this week. Brown had a huge 26 points (9-12 from the field, 3-4 3PT) against Denver, and Tatum put up quality numbers after lack luster games against Chicago and Utah. Brown has been a bit too inconsistent so far this season, but Tatum shows real maturity in putting poor performances behind him.