It was a simple gesture that started with about three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The TD Garden was more than half empty, as LeBron James had already ensured the Celtics wouldn’t be clinching a return to the NBA Finals on the Garden parquet. A decent amount of C’s diehards remained until the bitter end when the chant popped up from one of the balcony sections to my left with mere moments remaining.
“LET’S GO CELTICS” (CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP) “LET’S GO CELTICS”
At first, I took it simply as a smart and supportive gesture. Instead of showering your team with boos as they head into the series-deciding Game 7, why not give them some encouragement before they take off for South Beach in the winner-take-all affair.
The chanting did not fade however. Both ends of the Garden went back and forth with it. Through a myriad of foul calls, free throws and an endless final three minutes of regulation, the refrain continued from the Garden. It would neither fade or die out. Instead, it only gained steam. This wasn’t just an impromptu pep rally. It was more than that. It was a message.
Right as the chanting continued for about a minute, it hit me. Not only was this encouragement from the Garden faithful, this was a realization. Maybe, just maybe, this would be the last time Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen wear a Celtic uniform on the Garden floor. Uncertainity surround both men as they head into the offseason. Both are free agents, and it’s unclear if Garnett will play again beyond this year. Everyone knows the deal with both guys.
With no other appropriate way of thanking each of those guys specifically for their years of service, the Garden let the cheers weigh down upon the KG, Allen and the remainder of the starters watching from the bench. You know, just in case this was it for them.
It was as close to a thank you they could give at that point. They had appreciated what these underdogs had done during this season, and this incredible five-year run that had gone two years past the three-year “window.” The end was potentially near though finally, but the message was clear.
We don’t want it to end. We want more. So don’t get down on yourselves. Get even.
And every member of the Celtics roster appreciated that very message:
Kevin Garnett: “I just wanted to say to all the fans- I knew it was going to be a crazy day- it took me 3 hours to get to the Garden today, that’s unusual. I want to say to all the fans, thank you guys. I’ve never in my life experienced anything like this- in any sport. I’m just truly blessed to be a Celtic and be a part of the city of Boston. That’s what’s up to all the New Englanders around here. It’s f***ing crazy.”
Doc Rivers: “Did you hear our crowd the last three minutes of the game? What other crowd in the NBA does that? It’s a terrific place to play. The fans were unbelievable. They did their part tonight. We just didn’t do ours.”
Ray Allen: “Kevin was sitting next to me, and I said ‘I know I’m biased, but they’re the best fans I’ve ever played in front of or ever seen in my life.’ They understand the situation that is before us, and we understand it. And that was basically them sending us off, letting us know, hey, this is still well and alive. We need you guys to go down there and get a win for us. We all felt it on the bench.
I know the game was going on. It seemed like that three minutes lasted forever. It was special. I’ll talk about that forever, just knowing being down 20 and these people are still standing up, cheering us on, because they know we just have to win one game.”
Paul Pierce: “We have the best fans in the world. Down 20, at home, in the playoffs, and they cheer us off the court. And that’s just awesome. That’s why we have the best fans in the world.”
Rajon Rondo: “It was unbelievable. We’ve always said this, but that just shows we have the best fans in sports. Not just basketball. A lot of them stayed, and the chant was unbelievable. It was a crazy feeling when you’re down 20.”
Rarely does a team feel optimistic after being blown out in a home playoff game. Yet, it somehow happened after Game 6. And that crazy feeling you felt down 20 Rajon? It’s called Celtic Pride.