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Feeling like the playoffs already

01.12.09 at 9:49 pm ET
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It was a familiar scene. The Dropkick Murphy’s “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” blared in the background. Fans jumped around in their seats and screamed when prompted by Kevin Garnett on the JumboTron.  Paul Pierce had an unwavering look of determination on his face. Ray Allen drained a three and the Boston Celtics bench could hardly contain themselves. It’s only January, but on Monday night it felt a lot like June in the Garden.

“It reminded me a lot of the playoffs, the intensity,” said Glen Davis. “We had to get us a win, try to get us a streak going again. We just found a way to win tonight and the crowd was there for us and gave us some good energy.”

Similar to a postseason schedule, the Celtics took on the Raptors for the second time in as many days. Sunday’s game had been intense, with technical fouls and a close finish. Monday’s 115-109 overtime triumph over Toronto did not have any less energy.

“They showed great fan support, like they’ve been doing all year and my entire career here,” said Rajon Rondo. “That’s how it is basically every game when we’re at the Garden, especially when in close game situations. We need them to step up and make noise and they definitely do a great job of it.”

Up three points with seconds left in regulation, the Celtics watched the Raptors drain a trey to send the game into overtime. The starters had already been exhausted through the first four quarters. Pierce, who recently aggravated his knee, had played nearly 45 minutes. Allen, Garnett and Rondo were all approaching 40. Nonetheless, there was no let-up in the Garden.

“Actually, I felt pretty good,” said Pierce. “Could have played another quarter I think. I’m feeling pretty good.”

It took nine ties and six lead changes for the Celtics to put the Raptors away by six points in OT (RECAP HERE). Even though the game ran relatively late by NBA standards, the fans weren’t packing up. Neither were the Celtics.

“They gave us a lot of energy, just to play even harder,” said Leon Powe. “Even when you didn’t think you had any more left, you push yourself even harder just to get the win and get a stop for the fans and for ourselves. It was just fun to be out there. I know everybody had fun, with the fans yelling and the coaches yelling, everybody on the bench standing up. It was like a playoff atmosphere again.”

Just as in the playoffs, every game counts this season. The Eastern Conference is not promised to the Celtics and they have competition at the top of the standings for homecourt advantage. Whether they are playing the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Memphis Grizzlies, no game can be taken lightly.

“Our fans are not dummies. I know they are looking at the top three rankings right now with Cleveland and Orlando and us, and they know every game is important,” said Kendrick Perkins. “So I’m expecting that from every home game from here on out. Every game is important and we’ve got to expect the same thing from the fans.”

It was only January but it felt like June. And the Celtics are expecting the same intensity come the playoffs.

“They got pretty loud tonight and they’re just getting warmed up,” said Ray Allen. “They’re getting warmed up.”

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