Once so prodigious on their parquet floor, the Boston Celtics can’t seem to squeeze out a home-court advantage during these playoffs.
The franchise that once went 40-1 at home over an entire season fell to .500 at the TD Garden in the playoffs this year with a 123-116 loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“I don’t know. I don’t know why,” said Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who scored 30 points. “You’ve still got to play the game. You’ve still got to make plays, regardless of whether you’re at home or away. The court is the same: There’s one ball, three refs and two baskets.
“I don’t have an exact answer why we’re .500 at home,” he said. “But we’ve got to be better.”
With the loss, the second-seeded Celtics squandered the home-court advantage they earned by finishing 13 games ahead of Miami in the regular season. Not that it matters: The Celtics weren’t able to hold it in either of their previous playoff series, needing a pair of road wins against Atlanta and Philadelphia to advance.
Boston was 32-9 at home in the regular season, tied for the best in the East. On Wednesday night, the Celtics rode a spirited crowd to a 13-point second-quarter lead, but Miami outscored them 46-25 in the third quarter and the fans responded with boos.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he didn’t think the problem was where they were playing as much as how they were playing.
“I don’t think that has anything to do with it,” he said. “We won three of the four quarters. We got away from who we are in third quarter, whether it’s home or away.”
Teams used to fear visiting the original Boston Garden, with stories about cold showers in the visitors’ locker room and dead spots in the floor that only the Celtics knew to avoid. The 1986 Celtics only lost one regular-season game there, and then went 10-0 at home in the playoffs to claim their third NBA title in six seasons.
But that building is gone, replaced in 1995. The new one has served the Celtics just fine – they won an unprecedented 17th NBA title on their famous parquet floor in 2008 — but it doesn’t seem to inspire the same fear in opponents.
“We just go out there and try to win basketball games,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said. “At the end of the day we are the 8 seed, so we are on the road. We’ve got to go out there and try to win games on the road. We don’t have the advantage of having four games at home, so we’ve got to go out there and try to win games on the road.”