While watching Game 2 at Staples Center, where the home team was playing almost perfectly on both sides and the crowd seemed half-interested, I wondered whether the Warriors new arena in San Francisco would be closer to Staples-level volume or the eardrum-crushing noise heard at least once per game at Oracle Arena, which has several acoustical advantages.
- Oracle’s upper bowl is much closer to the floor because it’s separated by just one section of luxury suites as opposed to three stories of suites in the arena shared by the Clippers and Lakers.
- The roof at Oracle is much lower than at Staples.
- Oracle’s official capacity is actually 536 higher, if that matters.
- The fans at Oracle don’t sit and wait for lobs and blocked shots to scream.
But how much louder is Oracle than Staples or any other arena? Jermaine O’Neal has a way to find out.
“People talk about Seattle. We need to put a meter inside Oracle come Thursday and see who really has the loudest arena or stadium. And I guarantee you that our fans are going to contend to be the loudest group of fans in all of sports,” he said.
After Game 2, Doc Rivers was asked about the challenges presented by these next two games in Oakland after handing the Warriors a humiliating 40-point defeat. Rivers spoke in platitudes about how both teams would play hard and needed to use the next two days to prepare. Then he finished with a brief nod toward the noise he knows his team will face.
“That’s a great atmosphere up there,” said Rivers, who quickly added. “Just like it was here.”
Yeah, right. With an 18-point lead and “We Will Rock You” thundering from the excellent sound system, “Clipper Nation” couldn’t even make an effort to clap, let alone chant. Images of two hands clapping were flashed on the scoreboard after made buckets by Los Angeles, and the Clippers themselves had to urge the crowd to wave their hands and make a little extra noise in the fourth quarter of Game 1 when the Warriors were at the line.
Keeping Rivers’ comment that seemed to describe both “atmospheres” as equally “great,” I asked O’Neal if there’s any comparison between Staples and Oracle.
He gave me an incredulous look.
“The building is newer,” O’Neal said, before cracking up. Then he got serious.
“I don’t know if it’s a comparison. Here’s what I think the difference is. Four or five years ago, (Staples Center) was empty. If you look at the history of Oracle, those fans believe in that team. They’ve shown up for many, many years and had very little to show up for. And that’s the difference. We have a very, very intense crowd who really believes in the brand and the product, and they are going to do everything they can do to make it very difficult for an opposing team to come in.
“Hopefully I answered your question. I think we have a better fan base, to be honest.”
NBA games, series and titles are won by the best players and teams, and Mark Jackson has seen the team play as if they expected the crowd to carry them to victory too many times this season.
“It’s going to be a great environment tomorrow night. But with that being said, they won’t get a stop, they won’t get a score, they won’t make a free throw. We’ve got to do our part,” Jackson said.
Clippers fans felt like they did their part by showing up on time (most of them, anyway), and a large number left with four minutes remaining in the game. The game wasn’t in doubt, but would the Warriors’ current starting center expect his team’s fans to get a head start on traffic during a blowout win in the playoffs?
“No. Our fans, they stay. Personally, I don’t care if the Clippers fans stay or leave. They came and paid their money to come and do whatever they need to do for their team,” said O’Neal.
“But I think we’re going to show not only the Clippers, but show the world on a national stage who has the best fan base in the business. And I’d be shocked if we didn’t set the tone on Wednesday.”