C’s Cherish ‘Electrifying’ TD Garden Atmosphere, as Fans Return in Full

Celtics Playoffs presented by Putnam Investments & Arbella Insurance

For 448 consecutive days, Celtics Nation was deprived of the opportunity to fill the TD Garden seats in support of its beloved basketball team.

On Sunday night, those fans finally made up for all that lost time.

For the first time since March 8, 2020, TD Garden opened its doors to 17,226 Celtics fans, eager to cheer on their team in Game 4 of the first round against the Brooklyn Nets. And only one word could describe the next few hours inside the arena: deafening.

From the starting lineup roll call to the final buzzer, those 17,226 fans shook the city of Boston.

When Marcus Smart knocked down the first shot of the game from beyond the 3-point arc, the sea of green and white erupted as if he had just sunk a Game 7 game-winner. Fans stood and chanted “M-V-P” for all 17 of Jayson Tatum’s free-throw attempts (he knocked down all 17, by the way). And they stayed on their feet all the way through, even after the Celtics fell behind by 27 points in the third quarter, showing unwavering love for their team until the very end.

The only discouraging part of the night for coach Brad Stevens was that his team couldn’t treat their fans to a win, as it fell, 141-126. But he didn’t let the result spoil what was otherwise a magical return to normalcy.

“I wish we could have had a better opportunity at the end because it was so great to have our fans back in the building,” Stevens said. “I can't tell you, just being in the bubble, starting this year, going through the year – sometimes you're playing in front of 1,000 people, sometimes nobody. It’s just, this place is special, and the idea of being a part of a community, and a community watching a basketball game together, and especially here. I wish we could have had a better shot at the end, because I think that this place obviously wanted to blow the lid off.”

To Boston’s credit, it never stopped fighting for those fans, despite the outcome on the scoreboard.

The Celtics had the odds stacked against them from the get-go, as they were without three starters in Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams and Kemba Walker. On top of that, there was no stopping Brooklyn’s Big 3 of Kevin Durant (42 points), James Harden (22 points, 18 assists) and Kyrie Irving (39 points). But Boston kept hustling and kept attempting to claw its way back.

“You can’t feel discouraged,” Stevens said. “We fought to the end. It’s a great team with three great players that make tough shots. You tip your hat and continue to play. You just make every shot they continue to make as hard as you can.”

Even when you’re making things hard on guys like Durant, Harden and Irving, they’ll still make the toughest shots imaginable. On most nights, the only way to beat the Nets is to keep up with them on offense. And Boston made an admirable attempt, despite missing two of its top three scorers in Brown and Walker.

Jayson Tatum followed up a 50-point Game 3 effort with a 40-point performance in Game 4. Five others reached double-figures in scoring, as well.

Smart, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and nine assists, felt that he and his teammates were fueled by the fans all night long, and that kept them engaged regardless of the score.

“It was great having the fans there,” Smart said. “It was refreshing. We missed them, and I know they missed us. I know they missed being here. It was electrifying in the building. Exactly how we expected it to be, and we loved it.”


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