Cavaliers a Moving Target at Scorching-Hot Portland

cavs blazers

Jason Lake

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 6:40 PM GMT

Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018 6:40 PM GMT

Just when you think you have all the answers, the Cleveland Cavaliers change the questions. Are the new-look Cavs the right NBA pick at the streaking Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night?

Cleveland Cavaliers at Portland Trail BlazersFree NBA Pick: Trail Blazers –3.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers have it right this time. They looked very strong after shuffling their roster at the trade deadline – only to fall back into disarray coming out of the All-Star break. So the Cavs made some more changes. With Kyle Korver in the starting lineup and J.R. Smith on the bench, Cleveland (39-28 SU, 22-44-1 ATS) beat the Phoenix Suns 129-107 on Tuesday night as 7.5-point road faves. Problem solved?

We’ll get a better idea when they face the Portland Trail Blazers (41-26 SU, 36-25-5 ATS) Thursday at 10 p.m. Eastern. Unlike the Suns, the Trail Blazers are ... um ... blazing a trail towards the playoffs, winning 10 straight games at 9-1 ATS. They’ve opened as 3.5-point favorites on the NBA odds board for this bad boy. Let’s get it on.

Stalking in L.A.

We’ve had some fun speculating about where LeBron James might be taking his talents this offseason, and whether the Los Angeles Lakers, in particular, were “auditioning” for his services. They definitely showed James where the Cavaliers were lacking last Sunday, winning 127-113 as 2-point home faves. All three of the non-Cleveland teams on LeBron’s bucket list have torched the Cavs SU and ATS over the past six weeks: the Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets. You can even throw in the Los Angeles Clippers for good measure.

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Lakers exec Magic Johnson taking a moment to say hello to the LeBron James team because, well, you never know: Agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports and business manager Maverick Carter pic.twitter.com/f32ryKb5Lr

— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) March 12, 2018
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Putting Korver (0.0 BPM) in the starting five and sending Smith (minus-1.5 BPM) to the bench should help. You know it’s serious in Cleveland now. Smith signed up with agent Rich Paul at Klutch Sports two years ago; Paul is LeBron’s agent, too, and the NBA investigated Klutch Sports last summer to see if King James actually owned a piece of the agency. They found nothing. Meanwhile, Smith and fellow Klutchie Tristan Thompson (minus-2.1 BPM) were signed to fat contracts with Cleveland running through 2019-20. Interesting.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Pain

If it weren’t for all these injuries, maybe Cleveland wouldn’t be trying so hard to shake things up. Larry Nance Jr. (plus-3.8 BPM) is starting at center and playing very well in Thompson’s absence, although Nance tweaked his hamstring Tuesday. Jeff Green (minus-2.4 BPM) also got the nod against Phoenix in place of Cedi Osman (minus-3.4 BPM). Even giving Jose Calderon (minus-2.2 BPM) backup minutes to cover for Rodney Hood (minus-4.0 BPM) is an improvement on paper.

We’ve talked ourselves into putting Cleveland in our NBA picks more than once and gotten burned for it – thank you, Clippers. Looking good against the Suns isn’t too difficult, given that they’re tanking like the wind. Portland is another animal. It might be smoke and mirrors in the Pacific Northwest, but FiveThirtyEight has the Blazers winning this game 75 percent of the time, or –7 for a CARMELO-based spread, and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index pegs their chances at 67.5 percent, or between –5 and –5.5 according to Wizard of Odds. We’ll buy that for a dollar.

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