The Houston Rockets may not be involved in the NBA playoffs this season after nearly a decade of relevance. For now, it’s been fun to watch other teams deal with drama while enjoying the crowd experience once again.
With the first-round of the playoffs underway, the most noticeable difference in the games has been the addition of nearly full crowds. According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, more than 50 percent of fans around the country said the inclusion of fans has significantly improved the viewing experience, only 16 percent said it hasn’t improved the experience at all.
I’m a bit surprised by that number, as it seems like the crowds so far have made a huge difference. Madison Square Garden has been popping off through two games, and teams like Atlanta and Phoenix are getting to experience playoff basketball for the first time in years in front of packed arenas.
Having fans in attendance provides at least the semblance of a home-court advantage. Just over a quarter of Rockets fans believe Houston would have finished the regular season with a better record had fans been in attendance all season long.
With the James Harden trade, the Rockets were never going to be a playoff team. However, the real determining factor was the injuries that Houston had to overcome. Every starter and rotation player outside of Jae’Sean Tate missed significant time. Only five players appeared in over half of Houston’s games, and two of those were rookies (Tate and Kenyon Martin Jr.).
With the rest of fans around the country watching at home, there is no shortage of great opening round series to enjoy. 30 percent of fans around the country believe the Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers series is the best of the group. The New York Knicks series against the Atlanta Hawks is the next most popular choice, with 21 percent of the vote.
Similarly, 26 percent of fans believe the Suns best display the characteristics of a successful team.
I voted for the Suns-Lakers series as well. With the Lakers getting healthy just before the playoffs began, a lot of people eyed that series as a marquee matchup. On the one hand, you have the defending champions as a 7 seed. On the other, you have an upstart Phoenix team led by the mercurial Devin Booker and crafty veteran Chris Paul.
The makeup of that Suns team is a big reason they were selected by fans as the answer to the second question. Their mixture of youth and experience is solid. Their core is all under contract for next year and most are on the books beyond that. Monty Williams is a respected head coach and their fans were incredibly into Games 1 and 2.
To vote in the Reacts surveys and have your voice heard each week, sign up here.