The Lakers head into the All-Star break with a 41-12 record, on top of the Western Conference by 4.0 games, a comfortable lead over the second-place Nuggets.
But star forward LeBron James knows that means little when it comes to this team’s ultimate aim: winning an NBA championship. In fact, over the past three seasons, only two of the six teams that played in the Finals were No. 1 seeds during the regular season.
“We don’t talk about it,” James said, according to the L.A. Times. That might make some sense. The Lakers have actually been better on the road (23-5) than at home (18-7) this year. Through 53 games, at least, playing at home is not that big of a deal.
“At the end of the day I think every Western Conference team that will make the playoffs can win on someone else’s floor,” James said. “For us we would love to play in front of our home fans as much as we can. We love being there with our Laker faithful. But at the end of the day you go out and play each and every game like it’s its own game.”
With a big overtime win over the Nuggets on Wednesday, the Lakers have now won nine of their last 11 on the road. They’re 9-0 on the road against the West’s current non-L.A. playoff teams, but only 4-3 at home against those teams.
The Clippers are the only team the Lakers have not beaten this season, losing once at Staples Center when it was the Clippers’ floor and once when it was the Lakers’ floor.
Numbers Show Lakers Play Better at Home
Lakers coach Frank Vogel has been a No. 1 seed before, in 2013-14 with the Pacers. That team went 56-26, two games better than the Heat (and LeBron James). But when the teams met for the conference championship, Miami took the series in six games.
“It’s important, but it’s not everything,” Vogel said, per the Times. “We believe we can win on the road in the playoffs, so seeding is not everything.”
More important, though the record does not necessarily reflect it, the Lakers actually do play better at home according to the advanced stats. It’s a bit of a fluke that the record is worse, though.
On their home floor, the Lakers’ offensive rating is 113.5 points per 100 possessions, which ranks eighth in the league. It’s virtually the same on the road, at 113.4 points per 100 possessions.
At home, the Lakers play better defense, too. They allow 103.9 points per 100 possessions, which is third in the NBA. On the road, they loosen up and allow 108.3 points per 100 possessions.
That’s a net rating of 9.5 on their home floor and 5.0 on the road. If they were to maintain that level into the playoffs, they’d have to be considered favorites to hold on and win the conference.