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LeBron James Explains Why He Prefers Playing on Road During Playoffs
- Updated: April 29, 2017
While the main goal that NBA teams have during the regular season is to gain home-court advantage for the postseason, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James actually prefers playing on the road. The basis for that seemingly odd take boils down to the circumstances that fuel James’ high-turbine motivation:
“I just like the adversity of the road,” James said. “Home cooking is great; love the home fans for 14 years. But I love playing out on the road more than I love playing at home. It’s just a weird thing. I love the adversity, I love the ‘Tonight is not the night’ LeBron slogans. I love the ‘You’re overrated’ and all those things. I like all that. I don’t know, man. It’s the bunker mentality of knowing it’s 15 guys plus the coaching staff and whoever there that’s traveled with us against the whole state and the whole city.”
The Cavaliers have home-court advantage in their upcoming series against the Toronto Raptors and will also have it during the next series should they play the Washington Wizards. However, they’ll still play a minimum of two games in Toronto, with James looking to extend his unique streak of winning a road contest in 27 consecutive playoff series.
During his 14 seasons in the NBA, James has competed in 38 playoff series and won a road game in 35 of them. Despite that knack for accomplishing a difficult task, he doesn’t take it for granted that at least one victory away from home is assured:
“No built-in advantage,” James said. “Doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to win a road game in this series. Just play the game. For me, I just go out and try to win every game and do whatever it takes to help our team be successful. [We are] going to a hostile building in Game 3 and Game 4 [at the Air Canada Centre], and we know that. Their fans are unbelievable. I stated that last year after we closed that series out. Doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to win this year. We’ve got to go out and make it happen. We have to worry about Game 1 first.”
James even admits to occasionally getting a sneak peak of opposing fans as they prepare their hate signs to jeer him with:
“Sometimes,” James said. “Sometimes I’m able to see a few of them. Some of them are actually pretty good, and some of them are like I’ve seen them before, seen it since high school, actually. Some of them are pretty good. They take a lot of time out of their day to try to figure out how to get my attention away from the game. But I’m able to look at all the signs in the crowd and still maintain my focus on the court, too, so it doesn’t do much.”
Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue knows that the approach of James is a hidden asset, especially since the team has an 18-4 playoff record at home since 2015:
“That’s good to know because we play well at home,” Lue said. “Our fans are great; they have our support. LeBron saying he does play better on the road, that makes it a lot better for us.”
The mentality of James has led to some of his most iconic performances, beginning with Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007. That was when he finished with 48 points, scoring 29 of the last 30 points for the Cavaliers in their thrilling overtime win.
Five years later, as a member of a Miami Heat team that trailed 3-2 in a best-of-7 series, James scored 45 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in Boston. The Heat eventually went on to win the NBA title, giving James the first of his three championships.
However, Cavs fans have James’ performance in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals indelibly stamped on their mind. That was when he managed to combine a triple-double, an iconic blocked shot and the game-clinching free throw to give the Cavaliers their first-ever championship.
James could have been content to rest on his laurels after such efforts, but during Cleveland’s most recent playoff series against Indiana, he led the team to a stunning comeback victory in Game 3. With the team trailing by 25 points at halftime, James notched yet another triple-double with 41 points, 13 boards and 12 assists.
After the Cavaliers host Toronto on Monday and Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena, James and the team will have their first opportunity to play on the road next weekend. Games 3 and 4 will take place at Air Canada Centre on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, respectively.