BOSTON — Blowouts have been at the center of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are no exception, plowing through their Eastern Conference competition with relative ease and trying to stay mentally sharp during lengthy layoffs after back-to-back sweeps.
There are different theories about the results. But it’s clear the Cavaliers have distanced themselves from the rest of the conference. And according to head coach Tyronn Lue, there’s a common denominator.
“Everyone is using the home court to their advantage pretty much in the playoffs and a lot of these teams have great home fans,” Lue said. “We have great home fans and we’ve used it to our advantage over the last three years. The home crowd has definitely played a part in these playoffs now. Double-digit leads and wins are pretty surprising. But it’s just part of it right now.”
Aside from the playoff opener, a narrow one-point victory against the Indiana Pacers, the Cavaliers’ toughest tests have come on the road. Three of the four road games have been decided within three possessions, a close outcome given their dominance.
In Round One, the Cavs fell behind by 25 points in Indiana before rallying for an improbable five-point win.
Still, the champs are battle tested and have proven that the site doesn’t matter much. After winning a pair of games in the Finals at Oracle Arena and rallying from a 3-1 deficit for a championship, there isn’t much that fazes them. They also have LeBron James, who has made winning on the road an annual tradition this time of year.
“It doesn’t matter,” James said. “It’s the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if we’re on the road, you should be focused. If not, you shouldn’t be a part of the playoffs anyway.”
But Boston’s home-court edge has been obvious. Since dropping the first two at the TD Garden against the Chicago Bulls in a wild series with plenty of variables, the Celtics have won five straight at home, all by double digits. Without home-court advantage, a reward for an impressive regular season, the Celtics might not be in the conference finals.
Lue has seen the influence firsthand, as he got his coaching start with the Boston Celtics when they were the class of the conference.
“The crowd is great,” Lue said. “They have unbelievable crowd, just as we do. We’re used to that kind of environment because we get the same kind of crowd here. They feed off their crowd, feed off their energy and their crowd is amazing.”
The Cavs are focused, but the long time in between series could force them out of rhythm initially. As they prepare for the conference finals opener, Lue has prioritized getting off to a fast start.
“First six minutes of the game,” he said. “Crowd is going to be into it, they’re going to be into it so we have to be ready to play and weather the storm early.”