BOSTON -- Kemba Walker still has that killer-crossover that creates space and for defenders, makes their ankles a little wobbly. 

And despite his diminutive size, Walker still manages to bob and weave his way through traffic at the rim.

But the 99-94 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night was yet another reminder that Walker isn’t quite himself.

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And with him playing limited minutes with shorter playing stints, there’s no sense as to whether Walker’s overall impact will rise to the level so many are accustomed to seeing from the four-time All-Star. 

It has also led to changes in the Celtics rotation, which has complicated the process in how to best divvy up his minutes as well as those of leading scorer Jayson Tatum.

“It’s tough,” said Walker, referring to playing shorter stints and fewer minutes overall. “Obviously, just come in and out of the game pretty fast.”

In the loss to the Jazz, it was Boston’s third consecutive defeat at home - the longest such streak this season - in addition to preventing the Celtics (42-20) from officially clinching a playoff berth. 

Several factors contributed to the loss, among them being Walker scoring just 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting while logging just under 27 minutes of court time. 

While much of the focus of late on the injury front for Boston has centered around Walker and the team’s load management plan for him, ignoring the domino effect that his minutes restriction is having on the rest of the team is unavoidable. 

 

Tatum’s minutes played will still be in the low-to-mid 30s, but Friday was a game in which the usual substitution pattern involving Tatum was aborted. 

On Friday, Tatum played slightly less than 33 minutes and scored 18 points. 

But Tatum did so on a less-than-efficient 7-for-19 shooting night with most of his time off the floor coming in the second quarter - he did not enter the game in the second quarter until the 2:57 mark, a span of more than nine minutes. 

“He’s played a lot of minutes in the last month and a half,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens who added, “And so he played the whole first [quarter] which is unusual for him. Usually, he comes out in three stints."

Another major factor in Stevens' decision to change up the substitution pattern was injuries that kept Boston's other primary wing players - Jaylen Brown (hamstring) and Gordon Hayward (knee) - out Friday night. 

Their absence forced Stevens to tweak his rotation which he acknowledged in hindsight could have potentially been handled better by himself.

“If I had to do it over again I might get him [Tatum] back in a little earlier,” Stevens said before adding, “but also know we’ve just got to figure out a way to play without him some. You know? And it’s obviously a little harder, with those other guys out.”

Playing short-handed continues to be the overriding narrative of this Celtics team.

That becomes even thornier given Walker's minutes restriction while the team is trying to establish a new normal between him and Tatum, whose play has been among the best in the NBA since the All-Star break. 

The Celtics have a number of issues that they have to work through in the coming weeks without question. 

But Walker remains confident that those issues will be addressed and solved in time for Boston to make that strong postseason push they envision for themselves this season. 

“We’ll be alright,” Walker said. “We just have to figure it out; we’ll be fine. We just need guys to get healthy. That’s most important, especially heading into the playoffs.”

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