C's look to re-establish Garden dominance

AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

The Celtics return home to TD Garden to open up against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.WALTHAM, Mass. -- The last time the Boston Celtics played a meaningful game at the TD Garden, they lost in frustrating fashion to the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

But they were bolstered for their Game 7 showdown by the Boston faithful chanting "Beat the Heat!" as the final seconds of their 98-79 blowout loss ticked away. They'll be hoping for that same energy from their home crowd Friday night as they look to rebound from their opening night loss to the Heat when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks.

"It's great to always be at home, get a chance to protect our home court and this is the start of it, so hopefully we can put on a better showing than we did in Game 1 on the road [in Miami]," captain Paul Pierce said after Thursday's practice.

The Celtics are hoping home turf will help bring out their best this season. Friday will be the first installment of a season-long effort to reestablish the TD Garden as a sanctuary for the C's and a nightmare arena for opponents. As Rajon Rondo noted after Thursday's practice, the Celtics have seen far more victories than losses at the Garden in recent seasons.

"I mean, we had a tough year last year. Other than that, I think years in the past, the Garden has been a tough place to play in," said Rondo. "I don't know our record to date, but, like I said, with the exception of last year, we have a pretty good home record."

The record Rondo's referring to is 151-46 -- the Celtics' home mark since Kevin Garnett arrived in 2007. Their 24-9 mark at home during last year's lockout-shortened season wasn't even the worst of this revitalized era. The team posted a 24-17 home record during the 2009-2010 season, and even though Boston eventually went on to the NBA Finals that year, they dealt with animosity over their woes at home for much of the campaign.

Pierce is trying to instill in this year's club a sense of the importance of the home floor. With the bigger picture always in mind -- home-court advantage during the postseason -- Pierce alluded to the necessity of a strong regular-season home record.

"We also want to be a team that can get home-court advantage in the playoffs," said Pierce. "So, I think it starts with protecting your home, and then fight and battle on road games. But in order to get home-court advantage in the playoffs, you have to be able to have a great home record."

That'll be the long-term goal for the Celtics. They'll attempt to take their first step toward it on Friday, when they embrace a Garden atmosphere trying to propel them to their first victory.

"We’ll be better," said head coach Doc Rivers, whose team gave up 120 points in Miami. "We’re going to be playing somebody, and they’re going to want to play better too -- [the Bucks] lost their first game. It’s a competition. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it, as a team, you just have to keep growing."