Friday night, they will be the final major Boston sports team to host a game in a city that was shaken by the tragic events of April 15. The first games for the Bruins and Red Sox after the Boston Marathon bombings were filled with emotion. The Celtics expect no less when they host the Knicks in Game 3.
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"Obviously, it's going to be emotional, and quite honestly, it should be," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Thursday. "I hope that we channel it in the right way, and I think we will. I really do. It will be emotional for the fans, it will be emotional for the players."
The Celtics are down 0-2 to the Knicks in the best-of-seven series. But Rivers doesn't want to confuse the city's desire for a victory in the series with the larger issue of healing in the face of tragedy.
"I don't use tragedy for sports," he said. "I don't think it's right. We want to win for the city. It would be terrific. It is not anything I am going to use in a press conference or with our players. We should want to win. It would be great for our city, but that is as far as I will go."
The Celtics will continue to wear a patch throughout the playoffs that says "Boston Stands As One." The details of pregame activities were being finalized Thursday night.
"We're anticipating it to be very emotional, very inspiring," Kevin Garnett said.
When the Bruins returned, the fans sang a memorable version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." The Red Sox's first game was punctuated by a defiant, profane and much-beloved-in-Boston speech by David Ortiz.
The Celtics were scheduled to play a home game the night after the bombings, but that game was canceled. They haven't played at home since April 10.
"It feels like a month," Rivers said.
Said forward Jeff Green: "When I came home the other day, it seemed like things were back to normal. But still, it's in the air, what happened. It's tragic what happened, but I think the city of Boston has pulled together and stayed strong. I think that's what got them through. With the Bruins, Sox and us, I think the fans look to us as an outlet as far as having happiness and trying to pass what happened."
Notes & quotes: Garnett (hip pointer) practiced, though not fully, and is expected to play tonight . . . The NBA fined Rivers $25,000 Thursday for describing the early fouls called on Garnett in Game 2 as "horrendous."
With Mike Rose