Sure, LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. But he doesn’t limit himself—his talents claim success everywhere else too.
James and the Miami Heat are a perfect 5-0 on the road this postseason following the team’s Game 3 114-96 victory against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
The Heat claimed further history by becoming the first team ever to win five consecutive games on the road by double digits in the NBA playoffs. Miami has now won 23 of its last 24 road games dating back to the regular season.
Miami has now “stolen” back home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals, leading the series 2-1 with the next game coming again at the Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Of course, does home court even matter to the Heat?
It’s not as if AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami has the ultimate advantage. The Heat did go 37-4 at home this season, the best home record in the NBA, but the reputation of fans in South Beach has long been mocked.
The overwhelming sentiment, fair or not and true or untrue, has been that Heat fans are lazy bandwagoners disinterested in anything not wearing No. 3 or 6. They don't get loud and do not incite a raucous environment.
Those types of reputations are often built on untruths, yet they tend to create public perception regardless.
The most recent cut on the Miami crowd came via Pacers radio broadcaster Mark Boyle, who called Heat fans “losers” and knocked them for leaving early in Game 2. Apparently, he’ll have to adjust that take following the stream of Pacers fans who bailed for the exits in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s blowout.
The Pacers, meanwhile, seemed to perform better in Miami, sending Game 1 to overtime before losing, and then winning in Game 2.
For Indiana, it could be a case of a team playing better as an underdog. Suddenly, with the pressure to perform at home in a tied series, the Pacers collapsed in Game 3. And if it’s a case of the Pacers crunching a bit under the home spotlight, the opposite can be said of a Heat team showing resolve to respond to “crisis” games, just as it did all last postseason.
In last year's conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers, the Heat won a pivotal Game 4 in Indianapolis after trailing 2-1 in the series. They then won Game 5 in Miami and Game 6 back in Indianapolis.
The Heat again responded to pressure in last season's conference finals against the Boston Celtics, winning an elimination Game 6 in Boston before returning home to win Game 7.
In the NBA Finals, the Heat lost the first game on the road to the Oklahoma City Thunder before winning another critical Game 2 and then all three back in Miami.
Miami displayed a strong home-court advantage in the regular season, where it shot 50.8 percent compared to 48.3 percent away. At home, it won by a margin of 10.7 points per game as opposed to 5.0 points on the road.
But this postseason, the Heat are actually shooting better on the road (50.4 percent) than at home (48.4 percent). The Heat have won by an average of 9.3 points in Miami, but have won by an average of 15 points everywhere else.
James, of course, dominates wherever he goes.
The league's Most Valuable Player has seen only a slight drop-off in play when he travels. He's averaged 25.4 points, 7.3 assists and 8.0 rebounds at home these playoffs, and 25.2 points, 6.2 assists and 6.4 rebounds on the road.
Perhaps the obvious conclusion is that Miami is simply excellent whether it plays at home or on the road because it is just simply excellent, and rarely lose regardless.
It also may be less about how the Heat play away from Miami as much as how Indiana has fared away from its place. The Pacers had been 6-0 at home prior to Game 3's loss, but they are 2-5 on the road in the playoffs.
Winning on the road is a big key to advancing to the NBA Finals, so it's no surprise that both teams leading their respective conferences finals are winning on the road. The Memphis Grizzlies are 3-5 on the road this postseason while the San Antonio Spurs are 5-1 away.
If the Heat and Spurs continue to win away from home, the finals will become a showing of who can do it best.