Trail Blazers

Robert Covington: Moda Center 'gonna be a whole different beast'

Trail Blazers

The limited capacity of Moda Center is already sold out for Thursday night’s Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

That means about 8,000 fans, or about 6,000 more than previously allowed in the arena this season.

It will be loud.

And here's a legitimate question – does the partisan crowd have a bigger affect on the visiting team or the home team?

Or does it have an even bigger impact on the referees?

“Of course, the home team,” said the Blazers’ Robert Covington. “Fans bring the different emotions to the team and they bring a different energy that we can feel. For us to have, say 8,000 fans back in the building, we saw what 1,800-2,000 fans can do.

“And four times that? Moda Center is gonna be a whole different beast tomorrow.”

Certainly the home team can draw energy from the emotions of its fans. But visiting teams can feed off that, too, and I can remember how some players on very good Portland teams took great pleasure in silencing those boisterous crowds on the road.

At the same time, a home crowd can be intimidating to a visiting team. That happens, too.

 

Damian Lillard sees the impact going both ways.

It impacts the home team more than anything, because everything you do is likely a pick-me-up or it feels like we are moving in the right direction. And I think it does the opposite for the visiting team.

“Every time the other team makes a shot, it feels worse than it is. Every time you have to call a timeout when they make a run, that walk to the bench feels worse than it is.

“So, I also think when things are going well for the home team, the visiting team feels like they have to respond. I think that puts you in a position where like you've got to have great decision making. If you make a few bad decisions to try to respond to what the crowd is making you think or feel, it can make it worse.

“So I would say it affects the visiting team more than anything, but I also think referees are swayed by the crowd as well, like subconsciously.”

After many seasons of watching the league, I believe that last point may be the biggest influence a crowd can have on a game.

Not necessarily by booing officials. But simply by the crowd's instant reactions to events on the court.

Quick and loud reactions can often make it appear there was a foul on a play, or goaltending or some other violation. Or a lot of noise at the end of a game sometimes influences a referees’ decision simply to not blow the whistle and bring the game to a halt.

I’ve seen home teams get the benefit of 50-50 calls a lot. There are homers.

There were referees in previous eras who you loved to get on the road but did not want to see in your home arena. Guys like Jake O’Donnell always seemed to take great delight in angering the home crowd – and built a reputation for it.

I don’t see that often these days.

Terry Stotts sees the pressure on visiting teams in a way you may not have considered.

“Home crowds put a little pressure on the opponent's teams,” Stotts said. “I think it's well documented that role players tend to not play as well on the road.”

On Thursday, we will have our chance to see how it works out.