BOSTON For years, the Boston Celtics have been a confident bunch that believes they can win regardless of where a game is played.
But there's little doubt that the pathway to success is always a lot smoother when they take care of business at the TD Garden.
And the need to not just do well - but dominate - at home is not lost on the players as they prepare for their home opener tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.
"We're excited to be at home, especially after taking a loss in the first game," said C's Captain Paul Pierce. "Hopefully we can come back home and establish ourselves. That's going to be the emphasis this year, establishing ourselves at home."
Last season, simply getting an opportunity to play games was the primary objective for most teams after the lockout forced the league to play a condensed 66-game schedule that did not begin until Christmas Day.
Boston finished a respectable 24-9 at the Garden, good enough for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, sixth overall in the NBA.
The Celtics know they will need to do better than that in order to have a home court edge when it counts - the playoffs.
Last season's team advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. But they were unable to finish with a good enough record for home court in their series with the Miami Heat, a series that ended with the C's losing Game 7 in Miami.
That series included the Heat winning Game 6 in Boston.
"No team should be able to come in here and get any wins," Pierce said. "Our goal is to keep our home court clean so it can be an intimidating factor when they (teams) come to the Garden."
Several factors will come into play for Boston to have the kind of success at home that it is seeking. Here are a few to keep an eye on as the C's play their first game at home this season against the always-scrappy Milwaukee Bucks.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Bucks have one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Rajon Rondo and Courtney Lee will have their hands full keeping these guys in check.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Mike Dunleavy: Both of these guys will come off the bench even though they have the skills to be starters for a lot of NBA teams. After an underwhelming performance against Miami, Green will look to be more assertive and aggressive tonight.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass had 15 points and 11 rebounds against Miami. No one expects him to necessarily put up similar numbers against the Bucks, but he does need to continue making his presence felt on the boards. It's the best way to keep himself in the game and Jared Sullinger on the bench.
STAT TO TRACK: With the additions made by Boston, bench scoring should not be an issue. And yet despite having what most believe is one of the deepest teams in the NBA, Boston still managed to be outscored 32-29 by the Miami Heat in the season opener. You can bet Jason Terry and the rest of the second unit will be on a mission to make sure that what happened in South Beach, stays in South Beach.