NEW YORK — The Boston Celtics were playing .500 ball in their eight games heading into Thursday night against the New York Knicks, coming back to Earth after their best-in-the-league 22-4 start.

But Coach Brad Stevens doesn’t think the recent run is because his players became satisfied – or at least that shouldn’t be the case.

“I don’t think so,” Stevens said before the Celtics lost to New York, 102-93, “because one of the things that we really tried to talk about was we weren’t very good during that start, in my opinion. I mean, it’s relative. We were good enough to win but we had a lot of room to improve. We were down a lot. We talked about that. That was well-documented.

“I think that the last however many games since that run is just as indicative of who we are and why we need to improve as that start was.

“We need to improve. There’s no question about it. I was just saying in my meeting with TNT, we’re not good enough. Like, we have to be a lot better than we’ve been.”

THE CELTICS are home Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls, then stay home for a 5:30 p.m. game against Washington on Christmas Day.

For Kyrie Irving, it’s another work day.

“I mean, the hoopla on Christmas, I don’t really get into that,” he said after putting up 32 points against the Knicks. “I don’t necessarily think of Christmas as a holiday. I’m just happy that I get to be with my family. Looking forward to playing in front of the fans and just playing against a high-level Washington team, and going against great guys and then, of course, opening presents and that whole thing.”

JAYLEN BROWN went through a pregame warmup Thursday but it was decided he should skip the game to deal with a sore left Achilles tendon.

“I’ve played through injuries before,” he said, “so if it was up to me, yeah, I would play through it. But I’m not going to be stupid. I’m going to ask questions, look at the outcome and make the best decision possible. … Nothing I haven’t played through before, but it’s a back-to-back and we’ve been playing a lot this month. I just don’t want to risk an injury going into January where we have a lot less games.”

The Achilles has been bothering Brown awhile.

“It’s never been as severe as it was this past week or two,” he said. “It’s just been caused by tightness in the glute, the calf, and just your Achilles is taking all the banging for it just because of overload, a lot of games being played. But it kind of flared up in the Indiana (game) and then that’s when I was like, ‘OK, this is the worst it’s ever been.’

“But I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. “I’m not an expert on Achilles but I know it’s nothing to play with, so I’m just trying to make sure I get all the ins and outs and hear everything the medical staff has to say, because they have the expertise and go from there.”

Also in street clothes was Shane Larkin, who has left knee soreness.

“No exact moment from what I’ve been told,” said Stevens of the injury. “(He) had a sore knee that progressively got more sore and (Wednesday) really didn’t feel it during the game.”

MARCUS MORRIS missed his eighth straight game as he rehabs his left knee. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection and believes he’s on the road to recovery. Beyond that, Morris is just happy to have a solid diagnosis and plan.

“Yeah, I’m a little bit more comfortable but you know, things can change,” he said. “Where I’m at right now, I’m feeling really good. We’re pushing it a little more each and every day. We’re just getting feedback on how it responds, and for the time being it’s been responding really well.

“It’s unfortunate I even had to sit out, because once I did start playing, we thought everything was really good and the work we put in was really good. It’s just a matter of time before I feel like everything’s behind me.”

Morris hops to return Christmas Day against his brother, Markieff, and the Wizards.

“I have to get some type of experience to test it out to see where it’s at, to see the response,” he said. “But I’m feeling really confident on it, so hopefully Christmas. That’s a big game for me.”

As for the rest of the season, Morris said, “I’m definitely going to have to manage it. It’s something new for me, so mentally I have to manage it.”