COMMENTARY | One year after the lockout, was the far more serious lockdown.
The worst thing most Boston Celtics fans had to deal with last year was losing out on seeing 16 more regular season games during a shortened 66-game regular season.
But, after a hellish week that must have seemed as long as a dozen NBA regular seasons to everyone in living in the Boston area, Celtics fans joined their fellow Bostonians in a cathartic celebration of relief and closure, one night before the Celtics began their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series against the New York Knicks, at Madison Square Garden, on Saturday afternoon (April 20).
Ever since the April 15 terrorist bombings at the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, nearby residents faced five days of living in fear, culminating with a frightening 28-hour shutdown of the entire Boston metropolitan area.
But, when the surviving suspect of the pair of Chechen-born brothers was finally apprehended after an extensive manhunt, streets that were abnormally silent and empty during Boston's city-wide lockdown became filled with festive cheering -- even as four victims tragically lay dead while many others will have to learn to live as amputees and with other physical or emotional scarring as result of the horrifying attacks.
Healing Through Sports, as Boston's Beloved Celtics Began Playing in the NBA Playoffs
Everyone did their part during the lockdown, from the admirable job done by local, state and federal authorities, to the civilians who cooperated, including the homeowner who tipped off police that the captured suspect was hiding in a boat parked in his Watertown, Massachusetts backyard. Even the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins collaborated in the effort by postponing their scheduled games on Friday night (April 19), hours before Boston was deemed safe again.
The next day, it was the Celtics' turn to do what they could to help. As the city of Boston starts to move forward again, fans getting behind a possible basketball playoff run can assist with the recuperative process of slowly getting one of America's historically great cities back to normal.
Trying to do that first, against the Knicks, is particularly unnerving when recalling the catastrophic September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, which centered around the destruction of lower Manhattan's Twin Towers, caused by hijacked commercial planes that originated out of all places, Boston's Logan International Airport.
In Game 1, Extra Motivation Pushed the Celtics for a Half, but It Didn't Last
Certainly, as head coach (and former Knicks point guard) Doc Rivers and star forward Paul Pierce each alluded to prior to Game 1 of their series with the Knicks, the feeling of playing for something more than simply advancing in the postseason could bolster the Celtics' efforts against New York, especially when they return home for Games 3 and 4 of the series.
And, for a half, trying to uplift their home city about 220 miles to the North seemed to inspire the seventh-seeded Celtics in Game 1, as Boston aggressively scored 22 points in the paint and added nine free throws to build a 53-49 lead on the second-seeded Knicks by halftime.
Ultimately though, the events of the previous five days seemed to wear on the Celtics, who were held to just 25 second-half points, including a playoff franchise low eight points in the fourth quarter, during New York's 85-78 victory.
"It's like we put so much emotion into the game, we just didn't have a lot left in [second half]," Rivers said. "I thought we [became] flat."
The Classy Majority of Knicks Fans Silence the Classless
In the longstanding, bitter sports rivalry that exists between Boston and New York, the Celtics' valiant effort in the wake of a major tragedy wasn't going to be appreciated by everyone. In fact, Boston initially took the Garden floor to some jeers from Knicks fans 15 minutes before player introductions, while wearing special yellow t-shirts reading "Boston Stands As One."
Moments later, as the primary stars for each team -- the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, and Pierce -- joined forces to address the crowd with warm remarks about the events that unfolded in Boston, some utterly disrespectful Knicks drowned Pierce out with some loud boos.
That group, however, was quickly silenced with an even louder "Shhh!" by a larger group of the Knicks faithful who wanted to hear Pierce tell them, "Boston will rise and run again."
In time, it will.
And, even though the Celtics fell behind 1-0 in the series, their hometown already got the enormous win it needed the most, by the same margin: Boston 1, Terrorism 0.
Jonathan Wagner is a New York Knicks beat writer for New York Sports Day and a weekly featured guest discussing the Knicks and other sports topics on the New York Sports Geeks internet radio show (powered by Sportsideo). Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanJWagner.
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