December Will Be Measuring-Stick Month for Celtics

With December upon us, it’s time to get out the measuring sticks – not to gauge the impending New England snow, but rather to assess where the Boston Celtics stack up against the NBA’s top competition.

Over the next 31 days, Boston will play 15 games against teams with a combined record of 194-124. And not a single one of those opponents currently has a losing record.

The grueling stretch will begin tonight at home against an 11-10 Philadelphia 76ers which just got star center Joel Embiid back, following a three-week absence due to COVID-19.

Then it’s off to the West Coast for a five-game journey, starting with a back-to-back in Utah (14-7) and Portland (11-11), followed by a back-to-back in Los Angeles against the Lakers (12-11) and Clippers (11-10), before finishing up against a Phoenix (18-3) team that has won 17 straight. Many of those teams are perceived to be much more talented than their records indicate.

The Celtics will then return home for five games against Milwaukee (13-8), Golden State (18-3), New York (11-10), Philadelphia, and Cleveland (11-10), before heading to Milwaukee for a Christmas matchup against the Bucks.

They’ll stay on the road for one more game in Minnesota (11-10), before returning home to face the Clippers. And finally, they will close out the calendar year with a New Year’s Eve showdown against the NBA-leading Suns at TD Garden.

Robert Williams and his teammates are looking forward to this stretch because it will give them an opportunity to display what they’re made of as a unit.

“Hopefully we show our resiliency, we show togetherness and pull together,” the fourth-year center said following Wednesday morning’s shootaround in Brighton.

Boston has begun to pull itself together after a slow start, winning nine of its last 14 games to improve to 11-10. Along the way, it has already shown that it can battle with some of the league’s top dogs, having beaten the Lakers, Cavaliers, Bucks, Heat and Hornets during that span. They’ve even proven such through some of their close losses.

“I think we’ve played pretty well against some of the teams with the top records,” head coach Ime Udoka noted. “Chicago and Washington, some of the early losses were against teams that are doing very well. So this (month) is an opportunity to test ourselves, get healthy, get our whole group back.”

Boston hasn’t been fully healthy for most of the season, but Wednesday could mark a rare occasion in which they have their entire roster available. Jaylen Brown (return from injury management) is the only player currently listed on the injury report, though he has cleared his “questionable” status in each of the past four games as his strained hamstring continues to strengthen up.

Hopefully, that’s a good omen for the Celtics heading into this month. They’ll need all hands on deck for this upcoming stretch as they prepare to measure themselves against several of the top teams in the league.

“We’re just going to use this opportunity to know who we are,” said third-year forward Grant Williams. “That’s the biggest thing. We’re a team that’s gonna compete with everyone, no matter who is coming onto the floor that night, whether it’s home or away, and that’s kind of how we have to approach each game.”

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