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What comes next for the Celtics after disappointing 1-4 road trip?

“We’ll look at everything based on these [27] games and see where changes need to be made,” coach Ime Udoka said of his struggling Celtics.Rick Egan/Associated Press

After the Celtics finished a 1-4 road trip with a 111-90 loss to the Suns on Friday night, coach Ime Udoka said that there is now enough data to assess what is working and what is not, and that it could be time to shake things up a bit.

“We’ll look at everything based on these [27] games and see where changes need to be made,” Udoka said, “whether it’s lineup, rotation, minutes — everything.”

There is only so much a coach can shift within the margins of a 15-man roster, of course, but look for Udoka to make some tweaks in the coming days as the Celtics search for ways to give their season a jolt.


The team’s hierarchy is pretty clear, and the players at the bottom of the rotation, such as Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith, simply have not played well, making it unlikely that they will be vaulted into more prominent roles.

So Udoka’s first approach might just be seeking out groups that play well together. That task, in itself, offers challenges, because Boston has had its entire roster available for just eight games. But the sample size provides some clues, or at least some things to take a swing at.

The Celtics have 14 five-man lineups that have played at least 20 minutes together. And some of the spookiest numbers have been put up by the starting group that has been deployed while Jaylen Brown is out with a hamstring injury.

In 97 minutes together, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Robert Williams, and Dennis Schröder have been outscored by 19.6 points per 100 possessions. This group’s most obvious and glaring weakness is its lack of offense — specifically, outside shooting.

The unit has a cringe-worthy 91.3 offensive rating. To put that figure in perspective, that’s nearly 10 points worse than the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offense, which ranks last in the NBA. While sharing the floor, this Celtics group has connected on just 25.4 percent of 3-pointers.


To be effective, the double-big lineup that includes Horford and Williams needs a reliable floor spacer. But Horford has made just 29 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, including 2 of 13 over the last four games. And Williams does not shoot from there.

So without an extra outside shooter, or someone who can create his own shot, there will be long ruts.

It also does not help that Smart’s long-range shooting has regressed considerably. After rising for three consecutive years it has fallen for three consecutive years, down to 28 percent this season, his lowest mark since 2015-16. This clear lack of shooting and shot creating around Tatum makes it easier for defenses to swarm him like never before, too.

Interestingly, when Josh Richardson simply replaces Horford, this same grouping has been dominant, outscoring opponents by 45.5 points per 100 possessions in the seven games they’ve played together. Richardson has shot a respectable 35.4 percent from beyond the arc and gives Boston another playmaker, but this group has truly thrived with its defensive versatility, holding opponents to 83.8 points per 100 possessions.

Still, it can be difficult to glean very much from five-man lineups, especially this early in the season, because the sample size is ultimately small. The Celtics do have more information when the groups are condensed, however, and pairings can be important.


The most obvious move for Udoka would be to give the team’s younger players more substantial roles. But so far the numbers don’t back up that approach.

Each of the nine worst two-man pairings with at least 50 minutes played include Nesmith, Pritchard or Romeo Langford. Nesmith appears in seven of the bottom nine.

This season, Boston has been outscored by 13.1 points per 100 possessions with Nesmith on the court and 10.5 points per 100 possessions while Pritchard is playing. The apparent regression of these second-year players is also harmful because it will dent their potential trade value.

Center Enes Kanter Freedom was mostly benched earlier this season, with Udoka publicly voicing concerns about his defensive versatility in the Celtics’ switch-heavy lineups. But Kanter Freedom has actually been one of the few bright spots recently.

The veteran big man has a plus-14.7 rating this season, more than 8 points better than Brown, who is the next closest player. Interestingly, Kanter Freedom’s 99.7 defensive rating actually leads the team. But the struggles of some of Boston’s double-big lineups, and the fact that Kanter Freedom is certainly not a threat as a floor spacer, could leave Udoka with some difficult decisions as he figures out how to rotate his three big men.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.