Ranking the NBA's Most Intimidating Playoff Atmospheres

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2013

Ranking the NBA's Most Intimidating Playoff Atmospheres

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    The 2013 NBA playoffs feature several formidable venues that crank up the intensity once the postseason arrives.

    How do the most intimidating arenas create such a daunting atmosphere?

    It all starts with the fans. Their level of passion and thirst for success determines the overall energy of the game. Everything else is just supplementary peripherals that help to enhance the atmosphere.

    Of course, it doesn't hurt to have some good traditions and annoying ploys— and a fearsome team on the court.

    Which clubs cracked our top 10 most intimidating atmospheres?

     

    *Teams/Arenas chosen from 2013 NBA playoff participants

10. Pepsi Center, Denver Nuggets

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    The Denver Nuggets don't have a notoriously nasty fanbase, and the Pepsi Center doesn't evoke mystique or intimidating tradition.

    But it's intimidating right now for two practical reasons: the Nuggets were nearly unstoppable there this year (38-3), and Denver's mile-high altitude often serves as an unfriendly element for opposing players.

    Although the thin air is certainly a factor, it's not likely enough to give George Karl's crew a decisive advantage in the postseason.

    Denver's atmosphere would be considerably more intimidating if Danilo Gallinari was healthy and raining jumpers from long range.

9. AT&T Center, San Antonio Spurs

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    Foes who visit the AT&T Center in San Antonio are more concerned with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker than they are about any externals.

    When Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili are directing an efficient attack, the Spurs are one of the most feared units in basketball.

    The arena atmosphere? It's well above average, and the Spurs have a rock-solid fanbase echoing the anthem of "Go Spurs Go!"

    But it's not the kind of wildly-intense scene or sacred ground that merits an "elite" label.

8. Staples Center, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Championship banners in the rafters and courtside celebrities don't automatically translate into intimidation.

    But they can serve as contributing elements of mystique at the Staples Center when the Los Angeles Lakers are at full strength and led by Kobe Bryant.

    When the Lakers are on a roll and the Black Mamba starts feeling it, there's something about the dimly-lit arena that is impressive. It has a prime-time feel, somewhat like Madison Square Garden.

    If you combined the Lakers' tradition and aura with the Clippers' down-to-earth fanbase, you'd have a much more intimidating playoff atmosphere.

7. American Airlines Arena, Miami Heat

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    No one's going to confuse Miami Heat fans with Chicago Bulls fans anytime soon. The recreational culture, and therefore the sports culture, is different in South Beach.

    However, the Heat have done a pretty good job of creating an intense atmosphere for playoff games with the "white hot" whiteouts and pre-game theatrics.

    It's hard to imagine the fans ever becoming as passionate or loyal as Northeastern or Midwestern fans, but as long as LeBron James is in town and a championship is within grasp, the fans will smell blood in the water.

    The most intimidating aspect of Miami's playoff atmosphere? King James getting that "I want to dominate" look in his eye.

6. TD Garden, Boston Celtics

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    When challengers visit the Boston Celtics, they're not just facing that Celtics team. They're facing a unit, a franchise and a city that's proud of its heritage.

    New England sports fans are some of the best spectators in the country, and it shows at the TD Garden. They appreciate Paul Pierce's loyalty and feed off of Kevin Garnett's energy.

    The Celtics team and fans exhibit a pride in what they represent, a pride not seen as often in other successful organizations.

    They don't have the Green Monster like the Red Sox or the snowy playoff games like the Patriots, but it's still an unpleasant experience when opponents set foot on the parquet hardwood of the TD Garden.

5. FedExForum, Memphis Grizzlies

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    In an atmosphere that reflects the grit and determination of the team on the court, the fans at the FedExForum know how to get rowdy and support their Memphis Grizzlies.

    Hence the nickname, "the Grind House."

    The club doesn't have a rich history, but a 2011 upset of the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs proved how difficult it is to win in Memphis. The Grizzlies were buoyed by the excitement of their hometown crowd, and the Spurs went winless in the Forum.

    Today, it's just as crazy. A boisterous sea of yellow and blue makes Marc Gasol's defense even tougher than usual, and it makes winning a tall task for foes. 

4. Madison Square Garden, New York Knicks

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    When the Big Apple faithful chant a chorus of "De-fense!" and Spike Lee is in your ear, it's not fun to be the road team at Madison Square Garden.

    It's not called the "Mecca of basketball" for nothing, and in the playoffs, the atmosphere is even better in the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

    The New York Knicks don't have the banners in the rafters like the Boston Celtics, nor do they have the plush amenities of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. What they do have is a die-hard fanbase in a city that loves basketball more than any other sport.

    When the Yankees are on top, sure, it's a Yankees town. But deep down, it's ultimately a Knicks town that loves to create a scene in the Garden and make life difficult for visitors.

3. Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    When it comes to professional sports interest, the Oklahoma City Thunder has its city's undivided attention.

    A football-crazed college town has quickly fallen in love with basketball in the winter and spring. They bring their youthful, spirited support to Chesapeake Energy Arena to root on an exciting team.

    On game day, the court becomes encircled by one giant cascade of blue, as the fans are seemingly right on top of the action. They chant in unison and thirst for the city's first professional basketball championship.

    That thirst is what makes the "Peake" such a daunting venue for adversaries.

2. United Center, Chicago Bulls

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    The United Center is the House that Jordan Built, and the Chicago Bulls fans and players are constantly striving to bring a title back to the Windy City and relive some of that 1990s glory.

    Chicago is home to arguably the most loyal sports fans in the country, and the proof is in the attendance. The Bulls led the NBA in attendance in the 2000s and were tops in the NBA in attendance in 2013.

    That regular-season attendance is a small symbol of the passion and collective interest brought to the United Center in the playoffs.

    There's a reason it's called the "Madhouse on Madison." Joakim Noah, Nate Robinson and 22,000 roaring fans keep it electric in there.

1. Oracle Arena, Golden State Warriors

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    The oldest arena in the NBA is also the loudest, and it's home to arguably the best fans in the NBA.

    Oracle Arena is raucous enough in the regular season, but when playoff basketball comes to Oakland, the place enters an unmatched frenzy.

    Golden State Warriors fans are loyal and interested in their club when things aren't going well, so when the Dubs are playoff-bound, the building is constantly ready to burst.

    The past couple times the Warriors have been in the playoffs, Oracle has been a formidable environment because the players and fans seem to be playing with house money. They're underdogs and relish the opportunity to send their opponents on vacation.

     

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