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Celtics must still prove they can win on road

Brad Stevens, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier

Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) and forward Marcus Morris leap in celebration near the end of Game 2 of the team’s NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

AP

LeBron James has made clear he’s not intimidated by road playoff games. That’s the luxury of being an all-time great player with years of experience. No situation is too big for LeBron.

But that’s not necessarily true of his Cavaliers teammates. And it’s almost certainly not true of their opponent in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics won Games 1 and 2 in Boston, but they now must travel to Cleveland for Game 3 Saturday and Game 4 Monday. The Celtics have (unexpectedly) proven themselves to be a strong team this postseason, but they’ve done most of the heavy lifting at home.

Boston is 7-0 at home and 1-4 on the road this postseason. That 80-percentage-point difference between home and road record is tied for the sixth-largest of all-time (minimum: eight games):

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That could just be a small-sample issue. The Celtics have played only three different opponents and nine games at home and five games and two different opponents on the road.

But there’s also a belief (which could be self-fulfilling, especially given the early results) that young players are especially prone to large home-road splits. And Boston is relying on plenty of young players – notably Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.

One of the Celtics’ veterans, Marcus Smart, isn’t discounting the issue – nor is he surrendering. Associated Press:

Marcus Smart, who was all over the court in the Celtics’ Game 2 win , didn’t take any offense to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue’s comment that the Celtics have “shown they haven’t played that well on the road.”

“We haven’t played well. We know that and understand that,” Smart said. “We understand that other teams see that and try to exploit it. But that’s the beauty about this game. It just takes one game. You never know. Things change. Our confidence is high. Who knows?”