BOSTON — The Celtics didn’t exactly play inspired basketball through the first 24 minutes Wednesday at TD Garden.
But considering there were enough rings in the building to open a jewelry shop, it was only a matter of time before the C’s woke up and smelled the roses.
The Garden was brimming with luminaries, as players from the Celtics’ 1966, 1976 and 1986 championship teams — Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Tommy Heinsohn, Danny Ainge, Bill Walton and Kevin McHale, to name a few — all were honored during a special halftime ceremony.
Joining them in the audience was another guy who has won a few titles in his career: New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
The distinguished crowd was subjected to an abysmal first half that saw the Celtics manage just 38 points. But it also witnessed history in the second half. The C’s held the Miami Heat to just five points in the third quarter and rallied from 26 down — the largest comeback in the NBA this season — to earn a 98-88 win in their regular-season finale.
And while we’re not saying Belichick’s presence had anything to do with that, the Garden showed the Patriots coach on the Jumbotron early in the fourth quarter after the C’s had stormed back to take a three-point lead. Belichick flashed a smile and actually stood up and clapped, which sent the home crowd into an absolute frenzy.
Seeing Belichick may have been the turning point for fans, but for head coach Brad Stevens and his players, the presence of so many Celtics legends was motivation enough for a comeback. Stevens told his team as much in the locker room at halftime.
“We just sat there and talked in this tenor and said, ‘Who do we want to be?’” Stevens said. “‘There’s guys sitting around this building that hung banners. Like, how do you want to play? How do we want to feel about ourselves?’
“And we just looked different after that. But that was a collective discussion. That has nothing to do with me; that has to do with who these guys have been all year, and for whatever reason we took a little break from that on Monday and first half (Wednesday night).”
For Celtics forward Jae Crowder, turning the page in the second half was a matter of pride.
“That’s embarrassing, to have all these legends in the building and having us playing this way (in the first half),” he said. “In the second half, I saw a few of them smiling, and it got everybody smiling on the bench. That’s what it’s all about, for us going out there and playing Celtic basketball. We are all a family.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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