The Boston Celtics return home for the first time in 16 days Friday night and they do so down 0-2 to the New York Knicks in the first round of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
"First of all, it's just good to be back in Boston. Period," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday. "And second, it will feel great and be great to be back in the Garden playing in front of our fans."
The Celtics haven't played in TD Garden since an April 10 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
So much has happened to the city of Boston since the Celtics were in town. Two bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 killed three and forced the cancellation of a Celtics home game the next night.
Both the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox have been home since the tragedy and the response has been both touching and galvanizing for the city. From the fans taking over the national anthem at the Bruins game to the Fenway faithful joining Neil Diamond in his live rendition of "Sweet Caroline," the people of Boston have lifted their teams.
"We haven't been home since all of the current events and everything, so yes, we're anticipating it to be very emotional, very inspiring," said Kevin Garnett. "We're looking forward to coming out and we'll try to get this Game 3."
The Celtics badly need it.
Down 0-2 to the Knicks, Boston's offense has been downright pathetic, especially in the second half. In Game 1, the Celtics managed a measly eight points in the fourth quarter, and in Tuesday's Game 2, Boston scored 23 points total in the second half.
"We just need to become more aggressive in the second half going forward ... I think we have to have the mentality of attacking starting in the third quarter and continue to play solid defense, like we had done in the first two quarters," said Brandon Bass.
On Tuesday, Paul Pierce led the way with 18 points, followed by a double- double from Garnett with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Garnett battled foul trouble most of the night.
The Knicks are playing good defense, yes, but the Boston offense has been putrid. New York's offense has been solid, led by the NBA's leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, who is averaging 35.0 ppg during the first two games.
Anthony expects a Boston team ready to make this a competitive series.
"I expect a team that's going to fight," Anthony said. "They're home, a lot is going to go in that emotionally. We've got to be prepared for whatever they throw at us."
The Knicks haven't escaped the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs since the 1999-2000 season. Just two years ago, these Celtics swept the Knicks in round one and revenge could be two years in the waiting.
"If that happens, I'll be super-duper happy and excited about that," admitted Anthony. "It's going to be tough."
The Knicks won both games in Boston this season, but had lost 11 straight in Beantown before that.
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Boston.