OAKLAND, United States: LeBron James has won a road game in an NBA record 29 consecutive playoff series and the Cleveland superstar must stretch that streak for the Cavaliers to defend their title.
Golden State owns a home-court edge in the NBA Finals and opened the best-of-seven championship series with a 113-91 home triumph, although James will have another chance to win at Oakland in game two on Sunday.
If “King” James and the Cavaliers don’t take advantage at Oracle Arena, the Warriors will stretch their NBA playoff win streak record to 14 games and could become the first champions to run undefeated through the playoffs by winning on Wednesday and Friday in Cleveland.
The 32-year-old playmaker has won a road game in 35 of 38 playoff series over his 12 NBA playoff campaigns, last failing to do so with Cleveland against Orlando in the 2009 Eastern Conference finals.
“He’s a great player,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Anytime you want to win a championship, you have to win on the road. And we understand that. With Golden State having home court the last three years, we know it’s going to be tough.
“You have to win on the road to be great.”
James, who last month overtook Michael Jordan to become the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring leader, was coached by current Warriors acting coach Mike Brown with the Cavaliers, who appreciates the streak and the longevity James has shown in reaching eight career NBA Finals, the last seven in a row.
“It just speaks volumes to who he is as a player. He’s one of the greatest all time,” Brown said. “When you have his ability, when you have his intelligence and feel and all that other stuff, you’re able to lead your team in difficult situations and tough environments. And he’s done that for many years. So you take your hat off to him.”
James is 3-4 in NBA Finals appearances but his teams, the Cavaliers and Miami from 2011 to 2014, are 1-7 in NBA Finals openers.
“That’s testament to where he has kept his team together and helped them overcome tough situations and still come out on top,” Brown said.
For his part, James said his attitude about a playoff game doesn’t change whether he is playing before supportive fans in Cleveland or crowds yelling against him on the road.
“I approach every game the same way, no matter if I’m at home or on the road,” James said. “But I understand the road is very challenging, especially when you get to this level.
“It’s very difficult to win on the road and I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that in my career.”
‘A lot of confidence’
James says he is too busy adding to his legendary legacy to stop and ponder it greatly. “I don’t get caught up in what I’ve done over the years,” James said. “I get drawn in too much of what I’m doing right now in the present and my only focus is what I can to help this team be better for game two.”
It does boost the Cavaliers’ faith in being able to fight back knowing James has such a history in road playoff contests, according to Cleveland forward Kevin Love.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Love said. “Just having a guy that has been here, done that before, has so much confidence in everything that we do and walks the walk, allows us to be ourselves and be confident in approaching game two.” — AFP