The Celtics start their playoff run with an opening round series against the Miami Heat. Picked by most to be an underdog -- one-and-done to some extremists or second-round at best by others -- this is the only series in these playoffs where they'll have home-court advantage. Throughout the regular season, the Celtics let everyone from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the New Jersey Nets win games on the parquet. But in the playoffs they'll need to protect their home floor.
As far as what to expect out of Game 1, history isn't the best indicator. The Celtics won all four series openers in their 2008 title run. They lost both of them last year in series with the Bulls and Magic. As a franchise, the Celtics have never lost three straight Game 1s. A team that's been up and down energy-wise throughout the season, will look at tonight's game as a possible barometer for the rest of the postseason.
"I think the first playoff game will tell it," Kendrick Perkins said. "So we've got to wait and see. I know a lot of guys have been in the playoffs so it's not nothing new to them. I've seen guys turn it one when they had to. It's going to be interesting."
Mixed results at the Garden got so bad that the home crowd showered boos on the Celtics on different occasions. Doc Rivers has said that what happens in the regular season washes away once the playoffs start. Even with the fresh start, the importance of this game rings out.
"Every game is important, but Game 1 is important because we're at home," Pierce said. "We've got to play well at home, that's going to be the key for us to really do well, especially here in the first round because that's the only game we have home court advantage. It's definitely a big game for us. All of the games are going to be big for us."
You could argue that in trying to make sure all their piece made it to the postseason, the Celtics backed into the playoffs, losing seven of their last eigtht. Confidence in a team that was projected to be a title contender not only at the start of the season, but also as late as December when they started the year 23-5 has faded on the outside, but that's developed an underdog mentality within the Celtics locker room.
"It kind of makes you play with a chip on your shoulder when guys don't pick you to win it or they pick you as fourth place in the East, which we are right now," Perkins said. "So I think we want to come in and prove a point."
The Heat come into the series having won six of their last seven regular season games. They also have a player in Dwyane Wade, who can snap for 44 (as he did earlier in the year against the Celtics) but says he doesn't need to in order for the Celtics to win. But the Celtics, as they have all season, believe their biggest opponent is themselves.
The Celtics have brought energy to the gym by the caseloads some night. Then, on others, they appeared to be running on their last drops. If Perkins is right, you'll be able to determine how tonight will pay out early.
"You're always excited about the playoffs," Perkins said. "You feel it just the whole atmosphere just pulling up to the Garden. I just want to see our energy level, see where our energy's at at the start of the game, and if it's high then they might be in trouble."