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Ranking the NBA's Most Intimidating Playoff Atmospheres

Roy BurtonContributor IJanuary 4, 2017

Ranking the NBA's Most Intimidating Playoff Atmospheres

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    There are many ways that an NBA team can intimidate its opponent. Perhaps the easiest way to do so is to create an experience for its home fans that generates energy and excitement throughout the arena.

    Most of the teams in the playoffs are masters at doing just that, and the edge provided by a wild, intense crowd of supporters may be just enough to throw the opposing team off its respective game. It's no mistake that the franchises with the best home records are usually the ones fighting for the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the end of the season.

    But what team wins the award for the most intimidating playoff atmosphere in the NBA? Click through the slideshow to find out.

16) Atlanta Hawks: Philips Arena

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    The city of Atlanta has long been one of the most apathetic fanbases in all of professional sports. In the midst of their success in the 1990s, the Atlanta Braves routinely failed to sell out playoff games. The city's attitude towards all of its professional sports teams—with the exception of the Falcons—is lukewarm at best (see: Thrashers, Atlanta).

    Despite a very competitive team, the Hawks only played to 81.2 percent capacity this year at Philips Arena. Hundreds of seats were still available two hours before Game 1 of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics this past Sunday. If intimidation is the measuring stick, Philips Arena pales in comparison to virtually every building in the NBA.

15) Orlando Magic: Amway Center

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    While plenty of fans show up to Magic games—the Amway Center played to 102.1 percent capacity during the 2011-12 season—the jury is still out on how intimidating the 19-month-old building actually is.

    The former Amway Arena (also known as the O-Rena) was Orlando's previous home, and the Magic kept it rocking in the days of Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson. Time will tell if the franchise can recapture that magic (pun intended). Dwight Howard's impending free-agency decision will certainly play a huge role in that.

14) Indiana Pacers: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

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    The Indiana Pacers sold out Game 1 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic, but that was more of an aberration than anything else.

    The only team with fewer tickets sold this season than the Indiana Pacers (who average 14,168 per game)? The New Jersey (soon-to-be Brooklyn) Nets—a woeful, talent-starved team with one foot already out the door of the Garden State.

    It's a shame, really: Indiana has had a winning home record for 23 consecutive seasons—the longest active streak in the NBA. But for whatever reason, the Pacers have had trouble filling Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a number of years.

13) Miami Heat: AmericanAirlines Arena

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    Most of the intimidation from playing in the AmericanAirlines Arena is a direct result of the home team's roster—because other than that, Miami fans don't strike fear in the hearts of most NBA teams.

    It's bad enough that the fans arrive fashionably late, but the fact that they had to be taught when and how to cheer is the proverbial icing on the cake.

    Granted, there are far better things to do in the Greater Miami area than watch professional basketball, but if fans do decide to show up to games, then LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are more than enough reason to get a little raucous every now and then.

12) Utah Jazz: EnergySolutions Arena

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    To their credit, Utah Jazz supporters fill EnergySolutions Arena every night, and they are vocal in their support. There doesn't appear to be anything special about the team's fans, however, that makes the arena all that intimidating.

    The last time the building really got rocking, it was called the Delta Center, and Karl Malone and John Stockton were still in the league.

    Utah had a stellar home record this past season (25-8), but that likely has more to do with the fact that Salt Lake City is nearly 4,300 feet above sea level.

11) San Antonio Spurs: AT&T Center

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    Even though the San Antonio Spurs only used half of the old Alamodome, it was far more intimidating than the current AT&T Center.

    Much like with the Miami Heat, the Spurs' sparkling 28-5 home record is largely due to the players on the court as opposed to any overpowering energy brought by the fans. But it should be noted that the Spurs play in front of sellout crowds just about every night: The AT&T Center was filled to an average of 99 percent capacity during the 2011-12 season.

10) Los Angeles Lakers: Staples Center

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    With the darkened arena lighting and the celebrities at courtside, Los Angeles Lakers games appear to be the place to be when watching on television. The crowd itself is a bit reserved, though, and the mood at the Staples Center doesn't quite match the energy level at the Forum.

    By and large, Lakers fans are passionate diehards who will defend their team to the ends of the earth. The problem is, the arena seems to be filled with those who want to be seen as opposed to those who make it a point to be heard. With Lakers' ticket prices being what they are, the more blue-collar fans choose to attend Clippers games instead.

9) Denver Nuggets: Pepsi Center

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    Let's get the obvious out of the way first: The city of Denver is a mile above sea level, and even the highly conditioned athletes of the NBA find it difficult to deal with the adjustment.

    That is where the intimidation comes in. Otherwise, the Pepsi Center is pretty much your average NBA arena. The average attendance—88.9 percent capacity—is decent, and the crowd gets fired up when it's supposed to, but most fans are relatively docile throughout the rest of the game.

    The Nuggets' young and talented lineup might change things, however, so don't be surprised if Denver fans take a liking to this team and become a bit more outspoken going forward.

8) Los Angeles Clippers: Staples Center

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    If the Los Angeles Lakers fans who fill the Staples Center are a wine-and-cheese crowd, then Clippers fans are more "salt of the earth"-type people.

    That said, it's still Los Angeles, and something about the beautiful weather and scenic views must make people a little more reserved when they come to games in this building.

    There has been a noticeable change this season due to the arrival of Chris Paul and the birth of "Lob City." A few years from now, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Clippers ranked higher on this list.

7) Memphis Grizzlies: FedExForum

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    Memphis's FedExForum is one of the most underrated venues in the NBA: The building can get very loud very quickly, and it was undoubtedly a factor in the Grizzlies' upset of the San Antonio Spurs last year.

    Thanks to gritty defensive specialist Tony Allen, the arena is affectionately referred to as "The Grindhouse," and with a 26-7 home record, Memphis fans were treated to a fair amount of grinding by their favorite team this season.

6) Philadelphia 76ers: Wells Fargo Center

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    Philadelphia fans are known to get rowdy in general, and 76ers fans are no exception.

    The recent resurgence of the Sixers franchise has helped matters greatly. When the hometown team is on a run, the Wells Fargo Center can get extremely loud, especially when clips of Rocky are played on the Jumbotron above the floor.

    A blue-collar city that embraces blue-collar effort, it doesn't take much to get Philadelphia fired up about its local basketball team. And if you happen to have the other team's jersey on? Well...let's just say that you're in for a long night.

5) Dallas Mavericks: American Airlines Center

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    If this was a list of the most passionate owners, Dallas Mavericks boss Mark Cuban would be No. 1. Instead, the American Airlines Center comes in at a respectable No. 5 on the list of intimidating arenas.

    Dallas plays to over-capacity crowds every night, and every person in the building is vocal in his or her support of Dirk Nowitzki and company.

    Cuban's goal of perfecting the fan experience goes a long way in creating a positive atmosphere. For evidence to support that claim, just look back at how animated the American Airlines Center crowd was during the Mavericks' run to the title last season.

4) Boston Celtics: TD Garden

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    As insane as it got at times in the old Boston Garden, the TD Garden might be even louder and more intimidating. In conjunction with the talented team on the court, Boston has an undeniable advantage that most teams can only dream of.

    Gone are the days of the dead spots on the parquet floor; instead, the TD Garden has 18,000-plus fans that are right on top of the action, screaming incessantly. It doesn't hurt that Celtics fans are among the most knowledgeable in the league, and they aren't shy about expressing themselves to the opposing team.

3) Chicago Bulls: United Center

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    Energy and noise are synonymous with the United Center—the home of the Chicago Bulls for the past 18 years. No team in the NBA had a better attendance average than the Bulls this season (22,161, 105.9 percent of capacity), and those who are fortunate enough to score Bulls tickets are loud from the national anthem to the final buzzer. 

    The "Madhouse on Madison" will be a little less mad in the wake of Derrick Rose's latest injury, but make no mistake: Bulls fans are still going to bring their "A" game for the rest of the postseason.

2) New York Knicks: Madison Square Garden

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    Whether Madison Square Garden is truly the "mecca of basketball" is inconsequential. The fact is that very few NBA arenas get as wild as the legendary building on the corner of 33rd Street and 7th Avenue.

    Need proof? Just look back at some clips from the "Linsanity" earlier this year. Or you could just watch this.

    Basketball players of every age and skill level dream of starring at MSG, and the bright lights and big-city stage combine to create a special atmosphere night in and night out.

1) Oklahoma City Thunder: Chesapeake Energy Arena

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    After the New Orleans Hornets drew solid crowds during their two-season stint in Oklahoma City, it was clear that the town was starved for professional basketball. The Oklahoma City Thunder—formerly the Seattle SuperSonics—set up shop in the Chesapeake Energy Arena back in 2008, and a love affair was born.

    Perhaps no building in the NBA gets as loud as the Thunder's home court, due in large part to the arena's flat ceiling that contains the noise. It also doesn't hurt that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook provide more than their fair share of plays that get the crowd going on a nightly basis.

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