The road team has lost Game 1 in 11 of the last 12 NBA Finals, but is that a big deal?
Not necessarily. Out of the last five times that a road team has lost Game 1, three of those have won the series. That encompasses the Mavericks in 2011, the Heat in 2012 and the Cavaliers in 2016.
So the Cavaliers shouldn’t be bothered much by playing on the road, especially given how they won Game 5 and Game 7 in Golden State last year and given how they drubbed the Celtics by 13, 44 and 33 points in Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. They’re 7-0 on the road in this year’s playoffs.
The Warriors have won 11 straight road games, including six this postseason. They’ve averaged 113.8 points and shot 48 percent from the field on the road, combining regular season and playoffs, both of which rank best in the NBA. The Cavaliers have the fourth-highest points per game average (109.5) and the sixth-highest shooting percentage (46 percent) on the road.
The games in Golden State should be fascinating in this regard. The Warriors were the NBA’s top shooting team from 3-point range at home (41 percent). The Cavaliers were the best in the NBA at 3-point shooting on the road (39 percent). The Warriors’ road 3-point percentage ranks seventh - 36 percent.
How does playing on the road impact the biggest stars? LeBron James has averaged more points on the road (28.4) than at home (26.3), though that might have something to do with his averaging a minute-and-a-half more per game on the road. He’s shot better at home (56 percent to 54 percent), though he’s shot free throws worse in Cleveland (65 percent at home, 71 percent on the road).
The shooting gap is wider for Stephen Curry, who is shooting 50 percent at home, but 44 percent on the road. It widens to 46 percent at home, 36 percent on the road for 3-point shots. The drop-off for Kevin Durant is 56 percent at home, versus 52 percent on the road.
Other road notes
The home team won both matchups between these teams this season. The Cavaliers won the first meeting in Cleveland by a single point on Christmas Day. The second meeting, on Jan. 16, wasn't nearly as tight, a 35-point Warriors victory in their home arena.
That marked the largest margin of victory in a game between the top team in each conference in NBA history, with a minimum of 20 games into the season.
Durant effectively shut down James in that game, holding him to 0-for-5 shooting, with two blocks. It was a stark contrast to their Dec. 25 meeting this season, when James went 4-for-4 for 10 points when he was defended by Durant.