(Reuters) - With their NBA title hopes hanging by a thread, LeBron James and the overmatched Cleveland Cavaliers are hoping a return to their home court will help them breathe new life into what has so far been a one-sided championship series.
Cleveland have won all of their seven home games during the playoffs by an average of 20.9 points per game, and can’t afford to have that record tarnished by the defending champion Golden State Warriors when the series resumes in Ohio on Wednesday.
“We can’t afford to go down 3-0 to any team, especially a team that’s 73-9 in the regular season and playing the type of basketball they’re playing,” James told reporters on Tuesday. “So it’s a do-or-die game for us, and we understand that.”
The Cavaliers have their work cut out for them after losing the first two games of the series by a combined 48 points, which is the largest point-differential through the first two games in NBA Finals history.
Losing on Wednesday would be a devastating blow to their hopes of delivering Cleveland’s first pro sports championship in 52 years since no team in NBA playoff history has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win four in a row.
“We’re a confident bunch especially at home, definitely our role players have given us a huge boost throughout this postseason,” said James.
“So I know the guys are excited about the opportunity to get back out there tomorrow night and defend home court as we’ve done so far in this postseason.”
The Cavs could be without Kevin Love on Wednesday as the starting power forward is in the NBA’s concussion protocol after being hit in the head Sunday during Game Two.
Love, who has been a big part of the Cavaliers’ postseason run this year, did not practice on Tuesday but James said his team were not going to let that uncertainty distract them from their goal.
“We can’t afford to look and say, ‘Wow, Kev’s not playing. What are we going to do?’ It’s next man up, because it’s a must-win for us,” said James.
“Obviously his health is very important, but in the situation we’re in now, we’ve got to stay confident.
“And whoever coach decides to give the nod to got to be ready to go, and everybody else has to step up.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Keating