The Boston Celtics have been continuously boasting a deep lineup for a couple of years now. As such, they again entered the new season with great expectations, especially since they have one of the most talented coaches and a cast of young stars in the unpredictable, wide-open Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, things are not materializing as they should. The Celtics have been dealt with some bad luck. Aside from dealing with the recurring knee injury of Kemba Walker, they also got infected with the pesky COVID-19 bug. If that’s not enough, the last player they’re hoping to get hit was the one who did: All-Star Jayson Tatum.

Although Walker has since returned, albeit still under a minute restriction, the team is now feeling the effects of Tatum’s absence. The well-regarded depth isn’t doing any wonders, and it has the group frustrated, most notably the usually mild-mannered head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston has fallen to an 8-6 record after dropping their last three games, one of which was a 30-point blowout against the New York Knicks. The other two are opposite conference rivals Philadelphia 76ers, with the most recent also arguably worse than the previous defeat.

Here’s what Stevens reportedly shared after Saturday’s 122-110 loss to the Sixers:

The one-sided affair versus New York could’ve been chalked up to a good ‘ol off night, and understandably overlooking the very surprising Knicks who currently have a top-rated defense. However, the pair of losses against Philly was just disappointing, and felt like they lacked the needed fight. On both occasions, the Tatum-less squad faltered in the fourth quarter following 40-45 minutes of solid play.

The first leg of the back-to-back saw the Celtics get outscored in the final period, 31-17, commit six turnovers, and shoot a terrible 36.4% from the field. Overall, the defense gave up 42 points to Joel Embiid, who had his way against the C’s big men.

The second meeting, meanwhile, had them make a good run only to fall apart again. The Celtic defense held Ben Simmons to just four points heading into the final period but suddenly allowed him to score 11, almost in consecutive possessions, either through drives, close jumpers, and drawing fouls.

The last four minutes was more frustrating as they got overran, 19-7.

When will Tatum return?

Tatum was actually expected to return in Saturday’s eventual loss, but they decided to hold him off. With that, we can probably see the 22-year-old take the floor sometime in the coming week.

Boston needs Tatum badly as he’s taking a big chunk of offense with him (26.9 PPG this season). Buddying scorer Jaylen Brown has been providing a lot while he’s out, but he can’t do it alone.

The Celtics’ next game is on Monday, January 25th, at 8:30 AM (Manila time), where they’ll face the surging Cleveland Cavaliers.