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Thursday, December 9, 2010
Home sweet home

By Neil Carroll

AP PhotoShaquille O'Neal brings the Garden faithful to their feet.
BOSTON -- The Celtics improved to 10-1 at home after topping the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night. After all its troubles here last season, Boston has re-established a homecourt advantage, improving to 8-0 this year when leading opponents at halftime at home.

What's more, Boston is shooting a league-best 51.9 percent from the floor at home. While some may simply attribute the success to the lack of the rigors of the road, the Celtics know that they have an extra advantage at home because of the fan presence.

“I think we do,” Celtics guard Nate Robinson said about the team benefiting from fan participation. “Our fans are the best in the world.”

“Other teams know that when they come here, they are going to get the best from our fans every time they come.”

The TD Garden has sold out the first 11 games of the season this year, amid a streak of 134 regular-season sellouts for the Celtics overall.

“It’s important,” Celtics forward Glen Davis said of the fans. “We need the fans to play, we need their energy, we need their support, and we feed off of them.”


Whether it is the noise meter, or the simple “Fan of the Game” feature on the JumboTron, the Boston faithful are always into the game.

“Night in and night out they’ve been really supportive” Robinson said. "It’s cool, man, it’s the way of life here. They love anything to do with Boston and its just fun to watch.”

But do the Celtics get caught up in the fan interaction?

At the end of each lopsided win, the TD Garden plays the cult-hit “Gino” clip, showing a scene from the 1970s television show American Bandstand. In recent victories, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal were seen laughing along with fans at the clip, as “Gino” danced along to disco music.

During a timeout in the first half of Wednesday night’s 16-point win over Denver, the arena debuted the season’s first “Kiss Cam” -- drawing a loud uproar from the crowd -- but the team seemed too focused on head coach Doc Rivers because the game was still close. But there are times when the Celtics' bench gets caught enjoying the experience.

“[Coach Doc Rivers] caught me peeking a couple times,” Robinson said with a laugh. “Its kind of hard not to look when they’re cheering. You’re trying to see what everyone’s looking at.”

“For the most part, when we’re winning, even Doc will take a look every little now and then.”

And with the Celtics off to a 17-4 start, they can afford to look -- every now and then.

--UMASS PRODUCT FORBES FILLS IN--

A knee injury to Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony gave reserve forward Gary Forbes the third start of his career Wednesday. The rookie chipped in five points, two steals and an assist while playing 19 minutes, but is no stranger to shining on a high level in the Bay State.

Forbes played his junior and senior college seasons at the University of Massachusetts, a 95-mile trek west of the Garden.

While at UMass, Forbes earned the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award in 2008, and led the team to a 25-11 record, culminating in a loss to Ohio State in the NIT Championship game. In 2008, Forbes joined Julius Erving as the only two players to score at least 1,000 points in only two seasons at the school, after averaging 13 and 19.4 points per game in his two years with the Minutemen.

Forbes went undrafted, but after spending one season in the NBA Development League and another overseas in Israel and Italy, the forward caught on with the Nuggets in training camp. So far in his rookie season, Forbes has seen limited time, but managed a career-high 19 points Nov. 16 against the New York Knicks.

Anthony was scratched before tip on Wednesday, and the 6-foot-7 Forbes was Denver coach George Karl’s most suitable replacement. Forbes rotated with Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith at the shooting guard and small forward positions, matching up against Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels. Pierce scored 15 points, Allen had 21 points, and Daniels was held scoreless in the Celtics’ victory.

Carroll is a student intern with ESPNBoston.com.