A wide shot of the inside of Amalie Arena for a Raptors game in Tampa

Pregame Post-Ups: Playing In Front of Fans In... Tampa?

Monday, January 4 - Celtics at Raptors

Pregame – Playing In Front of Fans In... Tampa?

Tonight will mark the first time the Boston Celtics will play in front of fans since March 10. Oddly enough, they’ll do so in a city that doesn’t even have permanent NBA team: Tampa, Florida.

“It is pretty interesting that the first time we’ll play in front of fans is down here in Florida in Tampa,” Brad Stevens said before the game.

Tampa is where the Toronto Raptors are playing their home games for the foreseeable future as the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s current laws regarding the pandemic are restrictive enough to prevent the Raptors from flying in and out of the country for their games. Therefore, they needed to find a new city to call home, and Tampa answered the call perfectly.

The state of Florida has been allowing fans to attend sporting events for months, so Toronto stands as one of the few teams in the league that can house a small number of fans for its home games. The Raptors are allowing up to 3,800 fans to attend games as of today. That fact will provide Boston with its first opportunity to play in front of fans since March 10.

“This will be the first time we’ve played in front of fans,” said Stevens. “There were some family members that were allowed in the upper levels of Indiana and Detroit, and we don’t even have that in Boston. So this is the first time we’ll even have fans in the crowd, which is a little bit unique, right?”

So, too, is playing in an arena in which the Celtics had never previously stepped foot. Tonight’s game will be played inside Amalie Arena, which is where the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning play their home games.

“It’s a beautiful arena. It’s a beautiful setup,” Stevens stated. “I know it’s not ideal from Toronto’s perspective, just because you don’t get a chance to play in your home city in front of your fans at home.”

Still, 3,800 fans – even if they aren’t from Toronto or Boston – is better than no fans at all. With Boston’s strong national fan base, the C’s might even have a louder fan base than their hosts tonight.

- Marc D'Amico

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