How Many Fans Are Allowed In Arenas for the NBA Playoffs?

How Many Fans Are Allowed In Arenas for the NBA Playoffs? article feature image
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Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Director, Spike Lee celebrates at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The NBA Playoffs are back, and for the first time in a long time so are high-capacity limits for fans at sporting events.

Approximately 40% of the United States population has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, which is slowly lifting the barrier for fans to attend games in certain cities.

Because so many people can gather, some NBA teams are letting fans get a taste of postseason basketball in massive numbers. Sunday’s Game 1 between the Hawks and Knicks was the first playoff game in Madison Square Garden since 2013, and while the arena wasn’t filled to the brim, the 15,000 fans made it sound like a full house.

The Heat and Celtics are allowing the most fans into their arenas when they play Game 3 of their respective series this week. The Heat were allowing 5,700 fans at the end of the regular season but made an announcement this week that 17,000 fans would be allowed inside after initially saying they would increase to just 8,600.

The Clippers have been playing in front of about 6,000 fans, the fewest of all teams in the playoffs. The Lakers will play in front of the same amount in Game 3 against the Phoenix Suns.

Team-by-Team Arena Capacity for the NBA Playoffs

The biggest question is whether or not having more fans in the arenas matters for teams and players or the spread.

In April, Matt Moore spoke to multiple sportsbooks about what the impact of more fans in the arena would be, and while some responses were more conservative on the potential impact, others were more bullish.

Johnny Avello, Director of Race and Sportsbook Operations at DraftKings, took a different approach.

“We’ll have to bump them up another few points (on the spread) once you get to 10,000, 20,000 fans in the arena,” Avello said Wednesday. “The first night when there’s 10,000, 20,000 we have to react to that.”

We can expect home teams to be highly motivated to play well with crowded arenas for the first time since March 2020. And as the playoffs roll on, we may see some teams continue to increase their capacity levels even more.

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