Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's 113-108 win over the Denver Nuggets, James said he isn't focused on the Cavs' standing in top half of the Eastern Conference: "It doesn't matter to me if I'm a 6 seed or a 3 seed or a 2 seed, 8 seed. If I come into your building for a Game 1, it will be very challenging."
Sports Illustrated shared James' comments:
Sports Illustrated @SInow
Reporter: This could be a critical trip, [Cavs] could slip to 6th [seed] if things don't go right LeBron: It doesn't matter to me if I'm a 6th seed, 3 seed, 2 seed, 8 seed...If I come into your building for a Game 1, it will be very challenging (via @cavs) https://t.co/rnlvzb5O7L
Over the past three seasons, the Cavaliers have finished second, first and second in the East, respectively. In the two years when Cleveland finished runner-up, it defeated the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs swept the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 and brushed aside the Boston Celtics in five games in 2017.
Last year in particular was an example of how Cleveland often becomes a different team in the postseason, one that dominates its East rivals.
The Cavs are currently on pace to finish third in the East. They're nine games behind the Toronto Raptors, and 6.5 games separate them from the Celtics. Still, James and his teammates have reason to feel confident in their ability to book a fourth straight Finals trip even without home-court advantage past the first round.
Since Feb. 9—the day after the NBA trade deadline—Cleveland is seventh in net rating (6.0), per NBA.com. The Cavs were 19th in net rating (minus-0.6) through Feb. 8, and their 109.9 defensive rating was the second-worst in the league.
The team's post-deadline surge has also come without Kevin Love, who hasn't played since Jan. 30 after he fractured a bone in his left hand.
Until another team dethrones the Cavaliers, they will be the favorites to make it out of the East regardless of where they finish in the regular-season standings.