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A sort of homecoming: Celtics welcome fans into TD Garden for first time this season

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Boston lost the game, but in many ways, won the night.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Even with a very limited number of fans, TD Garden felt like TD Garden on Monday night. For the first time this season, the Celtics invited around 2,400 faithful through their doors off Causeway Street. That’s roughly just 12% of the roaring, raucous capacity that enters through those North Station gates, but it had all the familiar trappings of a Boston home game.

The building came to life and PA announcer Eddie Palladino filled the remaining empty seats with his booming “JT FOR 3” after Jayson Tatum hit his first from behind the arc.

When the Celtics went down big in the fourth quarter, the crowd sarcastically started chanting, “we want Tacko! (clap clap clapclapclap) We want Tacko!”

Boos reigned down from the rafters after Marcus Smart was ejected from the game.

All in all, it was a welcomed return to TD Garden. Unfortunately, the Celtics couldn’t feed off the crowd and lost to the red-hot Pelicans 115-109. “On the bright side of things besides the game, I could feel the energy in the building from beginning to end,” Tatum said after posting a tweet about his excitement for a home game with fans.

“It was a totally different experience compared to not having them even though it’s limited. That was something good to take away from tonight. The fans were incredible. It felt like it was a full house tonight with their energy. I definitely miss them.”

The Celtics became the 20th team to welcome reduced numbers into their arena. Before last night, they were 13-7 in the 617 and are tied with the third fewest home games to date. They’re hoping that a Garden-heavy schedule can propel them to a strong finish to close out the season and fuel them in the playoffs. Despite the loss, Monday night was a good start.

“It was amazing. It was amazing. They were great. That’s probably the best that I’ve heard, to be honest,” Kemba Walker said of the homecoming after a three-game stretch to the midwest. “A lot of our road trip teams had fans and I thought - our fans were loud. They were into the game. It was fun. They made it fun. It was really exciting have those guys in the stands.”

It had been 386 days since the Celtics graced the parquet. After a 105-104 loss to Oklahoma City on March 8th, 2020, the season was suspended after a road win in Indianapolis three days later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s the perspective that head coach Brad Stevens offered after the Celtics fell a game under .500.

“We’ve lost so many people in the United States and all over the world, the amount of people affected, employment status, the terrible tragedy that the past year has been. From our own experience playing in the bubble and not playing in front of anybody, seeing fans occasionally on the road but not here, I’d say it was pretty emotional for me to see it, because it just signals that maybe if we can buckle down and get through this, then we can have something resembling normal back,” Stevens said.

“Obviously, that’s not a lot of people in there, but man, it sounded like a lot more people than when we’ve been on the road. I appreciate all the people that came. I appreciate them being here because for those of us that have coached and played basketball games in front of no one, it’s been fun, it’s been basketball, but it hasn’t felt normal or right and so, tonight felt a little more normal and right even though we missed more shots than they did.”

If you’re planning on attending a game during the Celtics current seven-game homestand, please check out TD Garden’s “play it safe” guidlines and protocols. Be safe and stay healthy, everybody.