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Celtics Notebook

Celtics hitting offensive stride at the right time as difficult December rolls on

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics are filling up the basketCharles Krupa/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – The Celtics are entering their annual trip to Los Angeles perhaps playing their best offensive basketball of the season, and it’s coming at the perfect time.

Boston’s schedule in December is treacherous. Two games against the Phoenix Suns, fresh off an 18-game winning streak, a matchup with the Golden State Warriors, two against the Milwaukee Bucks, and two against the Los Angeles Clippers — three teams they face have even or losing records, but the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and the improving Minnesota Timberwolves are no pushovers.

“You don’t really look at the opponent or schedule moving forward, you just look at that night and that game,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “It’s literally one by one and hope that we limit minutes as much as we can with the heavy load guys had early in the season. But they keep coming and we don’t have a lot of practice time.”

The difficult road continues Tuesday at Staples Center against the Lakers, who appear to be in no better shape than they were when visiting TD Garden a few weeks ago. The Celtics, however, have bounced back against that disappointing loss to the San Antonio Spurs, winning three of four, putting up a season-high 145 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.


“What we focused on at times early in the season, and what we’re looking at now, [is] trying zero on specifics,” Udoka said. “We feel we’re at a good place defensively overall. There’s not a lot of more to implement there. That’s a constant every game, every night. The last 10 or so games, looking at our offense, [the focus is] how to be more efficient and play better team basketball and made wide-open shots.”

Tatum locked in

Jayson Tatum is second in the NBA in minutes (36.5), training only Toronto’s Fred VanVleet. Udoka said he isn’t concerned about tiring Tatum because of his youth and dedication to conditioning. Tatum, 23, is playing similar minutes to last season, when he battled the after-effects of COVID-19.


“He’s a guy that has coped well; he’s finding his rhythm,” Udoka said. “I’ve never seen a guy his age take care of himself the way he does, prepare the way he does. With treatment, getting the shots he needs, the weight room — he’s living in the gym, he takes care of himself, and it’s no coincidence that he’s able to play those high minutes and play at a high level.

“His professionalism is off the charts, especially for a guy his age. I’ve been around for a long time and never seen a guy at that age focus on taking care of himself to the extent that he does.”

Injury report

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s matchup after missing the past two games to rest his sore right hamstring. Udoka said the club will take a cautious, long-term approach with Brown, who has experienced hamstring issues in the past. Brown ramped up workouts Monday and came out feeling healthy.

Al Horford, who was rested Saturday, will return Tuesday and Romeo Langford, who missed the Blazers game with a sprained ankle, is also expected back. It will be one of the rare occasions when Udoka will have his entire roster available.

Trouble in Paradise?

The Lakers are off to a 12-12 start and LeBron James has missed half the games with injury, suspension, and COVID-19 protocols. Despite several offseason additions, including Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Nunn, DeAndre Jordan, and Kent Bazemore, Los Angeles has lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder (twice), Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, and most recently the Clippers.


Following the loss, several Lakers players complimented Clippers coach Tyronn Lue for his late-game adjustments, adding more speculation to coach Frank Vogel’s job security. James addressed the issue.

“Criticism comes with the job,” he said. “Frank is a strong-minded guy and has a great coaching staff. We as players have to do a better job of going out and producing on the floor. We’re a team and organization that don’t mind some adversity, that don’t mind people saying things about us obviously because it comes with the territory. We have quite of few guys on this team that’s been bulletin-board material for quite a long time so it don’t quite bother us. Frank doesn’t care and we don’t either about what other people are saying.”

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.