Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Houston Rockets 104 at Boston Celtics 92 - January 13, 2014

Boston is the city where my love of sports travel got started. Back in 1988, some friends and I took a chartered bus trip over Easter weekend and saw the Celtics host the Pistons and Mavericks, the Bruins and Islanders in Denis Potvin's last regular-season game, and Roger Clemens and Jack Morris open the MLB season. It was an amazing four days, no wonder I got the road trip bug with so many superstars playing at Boston's two iconic venues. Fenway Park is still around of course, but the aging Boston Garden was replaced by the FleetCenter in 1995. Surprisingly, I never returned to Beantown in the winter and had never seen the Celtics or Bruins at home in their new digs, leaving the now-renamed TD Garden as the last multiple-visit venue on my march to Club 122.

Now that I am living in New York though, this shameful oversight could be quickly rectified. A glutton for punishment, I decided to head here to see the Leafs play the Bruins, with the Raptors in town the following day. However, the Patriots ended up hosting an AFC Divisional playoff game, so I changed those plans a bit and I ended up attending the Celtics game on Monday, thus saving a day's hotel stay.

TD Garden

Located in the North End of downtown, TD Garden is built on top of North Station. In fact, one of the entrances to the venue is actually inside the station itself. When gates open one hour before the game, you walk up a set of stairs where security and ticket scanning takes place. You will notice a number of displays from the Sports Museum, which is worth visiting before the game although it closes quite early at 4 p.m. Take the smaller escalator up from here to get to the Loge level and enter the seating bowl, where the gold and black seats match the colours of the Bruins.

There is no problem wandering around the lower bowl and many fans stand next to the tunnel for autographs. Below is Aaron Brooks of Houston, who signed for a couple of minutes.

The concourse is wide enough on both levels, and I had no trouble navigating. There is a guest services booth behind Section 4 where you can sign up for the designated driver program which allows you to receive a small soda. I didn't eat here, but the food options seemed pretty typical.

The place is quite beautiful with the parquet floor matching well with the seats.

The rafters are perhaps the most populated in all of sports, with 17 Celtics' banners gong along with six Bruins Stanley Cup reminders, and some retired numbers to boot. Very impressive, but I didn't take a good shot as I am a bit jealous.

The upper deck contains just 15 rows and there are really no bad seats here, although binoculars are quite helpful. Tickets are currently very cheap as the Celtics are one of the worst teams in the league, but the experience is one of the best in the NBA.

After the game, some fans were allowed on the court to take some shots. I guess they are season-ticket holders; it sure looks like a fun thing to do. One of the few negatives of sports travel is that I never get to take part in anything like this.

Of course, being a season-ticket holder has its own problems, especially when your team is tanking and on an 8-game losing streak. Such was the case here and the game was about what was expected.

The Game

Boston got out to an early 21-12 lead, much like the Patriots did against Indianapolis, honouring Rush's election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. Houston was not impressed with this however, and  fought back to tie the game at 35 with five minutes to go in the first half. At this time, Coach Kevin McHale brought back Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard (below), and James Harden, and the Rockets went on a 17-8 run to end the half, simply outplaying Boston's far less talented starters.

A 12-2 run by Houston started the second half and essentially ended the game. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Boston had climbed within 13 points, and began to foul Howard at every opportunity. His free throw shooting is abysmal and allowed the Celtics to get close, down 97-90 with 2:48 left. Howard was again fouled, sinking 1 of 2, but the Celtics turned the ball over, forcing another foul on Howard, who again made just 1 of 2. A missed 3 by Jared Sullinger was rebounded by Howard, who was fouled immediately. Again he made just 1 of 2 (finishing 10/18 on the night from the stripe) but that 10-point lead was enough to stop the Celtics from employing that strategy any further and the game mercifully ended with Houston enjoying an easy 12-point win.


Rookie Kelly Olynyk (below),  a member of the Canadian Olympic basketball team, played just under 22 minutes, netting 4 points and 7 boards in that time.

This was venue 117 of those that comprise Club 122.

Next Up

Venue 118, tonight, as the Bruins host the Maple Leafs, which will be the 18th different NHL city in which I see them on the road (6-10-1 so far). Check back tomorrow for the recap.



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