The National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs begin tomorrow, April 17, with two first-time teams in the mix, and a league-wide expectation that ticket sales will experience the usual number of sell outs.

The league has some cause for concern, however, as the economy continues to sputter. At the mid-season point, average attendance overall was down about 500 fans per game at 17,001, compared to 17,502 for the same period last season. And according to Sports Business Daily, similar numbers were reflected through the regular season as a whole, with average attendance hitting 17,165, which was down about 2 percent from last year.

Yet, the playoffs generally bring out more fans as games intensify, and this year two teams are playing in the post-season for the first time, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Thunder are the former Seattle Supersonics, after the franchise relocated to the Midwest from the Pacific Northwest, and according to team officials, they sold out their two guaranteed playoff games in less than 25 minutes. The six-year-old Bobcats are hoping to see similar excitement on the ticket front, now that NBA legend Michael Jordan has bought the team. During the regular season, attendance for Bobcats games rose nearly 2,000 fans per home game to almost 16,000, compared to last season.

Thunder senior vice president Brian Byrnes said in a statement that the team is “humbled” by the fan response. “There is a high level of excitement and passion in the community for the team, and it’s wonderful to be a part of it.”

Bob Bernstein, CEO of Arizona-based ticket reseller, told TicketNews that he is seeing solid sales activity for NBA playoff tickets on the secondary market, surprisingly in part due to the economy.

“We’ve been doing orders all day long for [Phoenix] Suns tickets, and the Dallas Mavericks are hot, too, as are the [Los Angeles] Lakers,” Bernstein said. “Seems like a lot of last-minute stuff.”

Bernstein said that the sales he is handling are typically for premium seats, as opposed to less expensive higher elevation seats.

“Due to the economy, a lot of people have been trying to resell tickets throughout the season on the exchanges, which made for a lot of inventory and lower prices. But now that the playoffs are starting, some of that inventory has dried up, and people are turning to brokers to fill the void.”

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