On a St. Patrick's Day night when every last body in the TD Garden was decked out in green, you could feel it in the air — the Celtics were making their resurgence as a team that takes care of business on its home floor.
Three weeks ago, they had hit rock bottom. A loss to the hapless New Jersey Nets at the Garden on Feb. 27 acted as a harbinger of doom for the struggling Celtics; it was their third loss in their last four games at home, and it was yet another indication that this team lacked focus, lacked rhythm, lacked urgency.
They've since come roaring back.
You're looking at a Celtics team that is 5-1 at the TD Garden since the beginning of March. The wins have come easily — a laugher over Charlotte, a squeaker over Washington, and three more blowout wins over Indiana, Detroit and New York in the past week.
Once again on Wednesday night, the Celtics treated their home crowd to a decisive win decided by a loud scoring outburst in the first quarter. Once again, they took the floor with energy in front of the Garden faithful, and the result was a blowout win, a 109-97 victory that wasn't nearly as close as the final score implied. You could sense that with this win, the team was starting to build some positive energy on its home floor.
"When we string wins together, it creates some momentum that?s unspeakable," Kevin Garnett said. "You have confidence within that momentum. When you?re getting ready to go on a road trip, you've definitely got to take care of the games at home, just to get that momentum on the road. We?re coming up on a very tough road trip.
"Doc said after the Cleveland game that these games at home are very important," Garnett continued. "I don?t think he could?ve stressed it more. I thought we did a good job of just taking care of what we?re supposed to, but now we've just got to go on the road and play the same way we?ve been playing — sharing the ball, playing defense with a lot of energy and playing through for 48 minutes."
When this home hot streak began on March 3, with the Celtics' 104-80 win over the Bobcats, Paul Pierce wondered aloud if they could keep it up. If they could only be more consistent at home, he noted, the Celtics would have the best record in the NBA. But for whatever reason, it wasn't working for the C's in their own building.
Now things are starting to turn around, and the whole team is noticing. There's a different vibe in this locker room now — they're enjoying the run. Home has always been where the heart is. Now, it's where the wins are, too.
"It's very good," Kendrick Perkins said. "We're trying to establish that going into the playoffs, to be a better home team. I think we're a better road team, so we're just trying to be consistent at home."
Now the Celtics head west. They're ready to clash with three potential playoff teams in Houston, Dallas and Utah. They're in for a real test this weekend, and it's never easy to go into a test unprepared. Getting this victory was huge for a Celtics team that wanted to leave home on the right foot.
"It was important to win tonight, for sure," coach Doc Rivers said. "Knowing the three games that we have, that you can win all three or you can lose all three, you?ve got to take care of your home, and we did that."
On Wednesday night, the Celtics looked out into the seats and saw a sea of green, 18,000 strong. They won't always be so fortunate. But when they are, it's good to leave the building with a win. Once again, the Celtics did so on Wednesday night.