It’s a common NBA truism that a playoff series doesn’t start until someone loses on their home court, not that that does too much to appease my mind about the Celtics being down 0-2 for the first in the Big Three/KG era. But still a truism is a truism for a reason, and as the Celts head back to the Garden for Game 3 they’re going to have to defend their home turf like it’s their last dollar. The question is- is home court what it once was for the Celtics?
Playing in Boston got a reputation for being one of the toughest atmosphere’s back in the early 1960’s when Bill Russell dominated the NBA to the tune of an unprecedented eleven championships. Without a doubt, the Celtics pure dominance in basketball talent turned the tide in every game but even the floor of the Garden became the stuff of legends, as it became said that the Celtics knew the parquet floor so well that they knew which way the ball would bounce off any particular section of the floor.
In the 1980’s the Garden’s home court atmosphere became even more cemented in legend as the Larry Bird lead Celtics went a shockingly absurd 79-3 over the 1985-1986 and 1986-1987 seasons, catapulting the Garden into the epitome of home court advantage in all of sports. The raucous Boston crowd, which was crammed much closer to the floor than in other arenas because of the arena’s original boxing design, was often able to get under opposing players skin and have a tangible effect on the game. In addition opposing players cited the difficulties of playing in the Garden due to the lack of air conditioning.
In the “new” TD Garden, the Celtics haven’t been quite as dominant- even with their championship tested core. In 2009 the Orlando Magic were able to steal Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on Boston’s floor, and in the Finals the Lakers were able to win at Boston in both 2008 and 2009. And while the Celtics did a great job of defending home court in their first round series against the Knicks (and getting two wins in the asbestos-laced Madison Square Garden), Lebron does have previous experience winning in Boston as well. To make matters worse, the Celts have looked old and sick enough that I almost suspect they may have come down with asbestos cancer, or mesothelioma, in New York.