The Cleveland Cavaliers have been dominant at home, but they have yet to carry that success over onto the road. Now would be a good time to start.
The Cavaliers open their season-long, seven-game road trip Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena, where they’ve lost six of their last seven visits.
Cleveland (21-12) leads the Central Division and is playing some of its best basketball of the season, having won four straight and seven of its last eight, including a 96-91 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday. The run has included road wins over Boston and Chicago, but the Cavs are just 6-9 on the road this season compared with a 15-3 mark at Quicken Loans Arena.
Last season, Cleveland went 1-5 on a similar Western road trip in January.
“I remember last year when we lost a few games going into the West Coast road trip and we didn’t win a game … until the last game,” said Cavs star LeBron James, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds in Saturday’s win. “We don’t want to repeat that.”
Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden led all scorers with 21 points against the Nets. Gooden sealed the win with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds, and is averaging 18.8 points over his last four games - well above his 12.2 season average.
“We knew we had some games that we were capable of winning and we wanted to do that before we went out west, because we know that once we go out west, it’s going to be a tougher bunch of games,” Gooden said.
On paper, the Kings (14-17) appear to be one of the easier teams Cleveland will face during the road trip, which includes matchups against the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors - all clubs with records of .500 or better. However, Sacramento has won 11 of the past 12 overall meetings with the Cavaliers, and 13 of 15 this decade.
Cleveland did win its last visit to Arco Arena, 102-97 on Dec. 6, 2005, behind 30 points from James and 24 from Hughes. James is averaging 25.4 points in five career games versus the Kings
The Kings have lost their last two games in overtime, including a 110-105 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. Sacramento led by two in the closing seconds, but Portland’s Brandon Roy sent the game into overtime with a shot at the buzzer.
Mike Bibby finished with 28 points, but had just two in overtime when his jumper with six seconds left cut the Blazers lead to one. Portland connected on both free throws and Bibby missed his next shot with two seconds left, ending any Kings’ hopes of a win.
“We were in a position to win the game against the Lakers and we missed foul shots and we were in position tonight to win the game, but did the same thing,” coach Eric Musselman said.
Sacramento has won three of its last five at Arco, and is 10-9 there for the season.