It’s a pretty good chance the Boston Celtics will not look to trade Jayson Tatum, above, or Jaylen Brown, but the team could try to improve the supporting cast. Ashley Landis/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — One year ago, a mismatched and COVID-ravaged Celtics roster began the season with a 13-13 record under Brad Stevens.

There’s a lot that looks different on paper with the 2021-22 Boston Celtics compared to that group. A new head coach, new president of basketball operations, and a revamped bench unit full of experienced veterans led to optimism before the season began. But the net result has been exactly the same through 26 games: A 13-13 record after the Celtics lost 114-111 to a Clippers team without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on Tuesday night.

Boston dropped to 1-3 on its West Coast swing, trailing by as many as 21 points as it coughed up 23 turnovers. A number of second-half rallies came up short as the Celtics ran out of time and stops against a Clippers team that took advantage of countless Boston mental mistakes.

There are some reasons for patience for this Celtics team, but how much weight those excuses hold is debatable at best at this point. Jaylen Brown missed his fourth straight game because of a hamstring injury, but the Celtics actually have a better record this season with him on the sidelines (7-5) than when he’s been active (6-8).

Against a Clippers team without a pair of All-Stars, the Celtics certainly had enough talent to take down a team with the 27th worst offense in the league when at full strength. However, an uninspired performance from the starters for much of the first 30 minutes left a 21-point hole. The performance left plenty of Boston’s key personnel looking for answers, especially on the heels of a flat performance against the Lakers on Tuesday night.

“I don’t know, you probably don’t know. That’s the reason you’re asking me,” Dennis Schroder said of the effort. “We’ve just got to come out and do it for 48 minutes. I mean, it can’t happen that we just do it for two or three quarters, or one quarter. I think everybody’s just got to take pride, especially the starters who started tonight, to make sure we come out and give everything we have. We just can’t get in the hole down 20 and try to play. So, we’ve got to figure that out for sure.”

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“The effort and the inconsistency is frustrating at times,” Ime Udoka added.

The Celtics have only been whole for eight games, but they have not looked particularly better with a full lineup available. Instead, the roller coaster ride that led to a 36-36 season last season has pretty much stayed in place amid a host of offseason changes. The team hasn’t won or lost more than three straight games at a time, and steps forward on offense have been accompanied by steps back on the defensive end (120 points allowed per 100 possessions during the road trip).

With a brutal month of December still remaining, including games against three contenders looming in the next week – Phoenix, Milwaukee, Golden State – things could get worse before they get better. Udoka is overseeing a mediocre squad at the moment that isn’t even developing any of its young talent consistently, with Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard and Romeo Langford routinely getting less run than veterans.

Stevens stated earlier this season we were going to ‘find out’ if this was the right mix of talent, but the same issues that plagued last year’s group have been present most nights. To be blunt, this isn’t a roster that is making a strong case to be kept together. The sense of urgency that was required from this group after a 2-5 start just hasn’t been there consistently enough.

“It is frustrating,” Tatum admitted. “Part of it, I guess, is human nature and tendencies and habits and, I guess, how you approach certain things. The easy answer would just be that we’ve gotta be better. Gotta be better at that. I think you guys know if we play like we did in the fourth quarter, if we play like that the whole game, the outcome probably would have been different. It’s one thing to say, it’s one thing to know it, but it’s a difference going out there and doing it. And I think that’s on myself and all of us to just try to be more complete throughout the 48 minutes.”

The Celtics have another week or so to show that type of commitment as Brown gets closer to a return to the lineup. Tatum and Brown won’t be going anywhere for the foreseeable future, but it may be time to create a different mix around the star duo if the same issues remain.


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