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Waltham, Mass. - The Celtics need a pick-me-up after losing the opening two games of their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks. The city of Boston could use one, too, after a traumatic two weeks of bombings and manhunts and grieving.
The town and its team might be able to help each other out.
The Celtics return to the TD Garden tonight for their first game since the bombs at the Boston Marathon killed three people and wounded hundreds more. As with the Bruins and the Red Sox before them, the Celtics will pay tribute to the victims and the first-responders in a pregame ceremony - and then try to put it aside and play.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow, being home, back in Beantown. Very much so," Kevin Garnett said. "We haven't been home since all the current events and everything. So, yes, we're anticipating it being very emotional, very inspiring, and we're looking forward to coming out and trying to get this Game 3."
The Celtics were scheduled to play Indiana in Boston in their regular-season finale April 16, the day after the bombings at the marathon finish line. The game was canceled, and the Celtics began the playoffs in New York, where they went down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series.
Now they're back at the Garden, where they had a bigger home-court advantage during the regular season - 13 more wins in Boston than on the road - than any other playoff team in the Eastern Conference. As did their NHL and baseball counterparts, the players said they are eager to help the fans take their minds off of more serious matters.
And, if it provides them with a little boost, that's even better.
"Having our home fans behind us is going to be a big advantage for us," forward Jeff Green said. "We're just excited to be here. It's been a while since we've had a home game in front of our fans."
Boston's last home game was April 10.
"It seems like a month," coach Doc Rivers said.
"The crowd always provides (a boost) - that's why they call it a home-court advantage. They always provide you with energy," he said. "There's no better crowd in the NBA than ours. There's no better crowd in sports than this city. They are actually really invested. ... Boston, when you're winning or losing, you still hear the people talking trash. And that's just the way they are, the way they're built. And we expect them to be very much that tomorrow."
NBA commissioner David Stern and his appointed heir, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, will attend the game a day after the league levied a $25,000 fine on Rivers for criticizing the referees after Boston's 87-71 loss in Game 2.
Garnett picked up two quick fouls Tuesday and spent most of the game in foul trouble, playing only 24 minutes. Afterward, Rivers said some of the calls against Garnett were "horrendous." On Wednesday, he tried to backtrack from his comments and said he was just talking about how the fouls affected his team.
Stern said the league wanted to demonstrate its support, and he was ready for the reception he'll receive.
"After, I'm sure, a very moving ceremony, the first time a referee is perceived to have missed a call, the Boston fans will revert in a good way to form," he said. "And that's one of the beauties of sports."
That's what the Knicks are expecting, too.
"It's going to be hostile for us," Knicks swingman J.R. Smith said. "Boston's always - if you're the home team, it's a great place to play. If you're the away team, it's a nightmare. We've just got to keep our composure, play through everything."
Rivers said Garnett will be limited in practice Thursday after injuring his hip late in Tuesday's game. Rivers is counting on Garnett to play, he said, adding that he didn't ask the training staff "because they may give you the answer you don't want to hear."
"That's my rule," he said. "I try not to ask."