Throughout their illustrious history, the Boston Celtics have cultivated and maintained a home mystique unlike any other NBA franchise.
For opposing teams, the old Garden was where championship dreams went to die, and the Celtics have carried that aura of invincibility since Russell and Auerbach roamed the parquet floor.
That spirit has been passed through the decades, from Russell to Havlicek to Bird to the current roster of Pierce and KG. Only a iconic hook shot from a trancendently talented guard named Magic has been able to truly penetrate that mystique.
And while the old Garden may be dead and buried, its spirit lives on, its ghosts still lurk, and somewhere, Red still has that cigar on the ready.
For all their defensive intensity and star power, it was the Celtics homecourt advantage that carried the title back to Boston. In 2008, Boston managed only three road victories, and were pushed to the brink by both Atlanta and Cleveland.
But only the Pistons were able to steal a game from the Celtics at home, as Boston rode their dominance at the new Garden and raised their record 17th championship banner.
Heading into the 2009 playoffs, it appears that Boston will not have their historical homecourt safety net to catch them if they once again struggle on the road, a fact that will likely doom them in later series.
With an ailing KG battling injuries, Boston currently sits tied (with Orlando) for the second seed in the East, an insurmountable five games back of Cleveland for the top spot.
Considering that Cleveland is threatening to tie the 1986 Celtics for home supremacy (currently sporting an incredible 34-1 mark,) the fact that the road to the finals will go through LeBron’s ‘hood should make any Boston fan more than a little nervous.
The Celtics needed a gutsy, career-defining performance from Paul Pierce to narrowly hold off a much weaker Cavs team at home in Game Seven last season, and it is awfully difficult to see Boston prevailing on the road in similar fashion against the improved Cavs in this postseason.
And if by chance Boston avoids Cleveland in the playoffs (highly unlikely) and runs into their classic rivals, the Lakers once again, L.A. will carry the homecourt in that series as well. Despite their amazing comeback against the Lakers in Game Four last year, the homecourt would likely swing the series in Los Angeles’ favor this season as well, with Bynum or not.
So enjoy the return to championship-caliber basketball Boston fans. Just don’t expect another banner to be raised by going through Cleveland or L.A., away from the ghosts of the Garden’s past.