Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 30 inclusive:
So, what’s happening out in Portland these days? Coffee? Bicycles? Twee music? Oh, right, they also have that basketball team… the Trailblazers, was it? Oh, they’re the Trail Blazers now. Is Zach Randolph still there? No? How about Bonzi Wells?
That’s a dramatic representation of what the NBA betting market knows about the Blazers. The truth isn’t quite so bad, but casual bettors still don’t spend much time keeping up to date with what’s happening in the Pacific Northwest. They may not have noticed that LaMarcus Aldridge (21.7 PER) is back in the lineup, or that Portland has won its last three games SU and ATS. Maybe Tuesday’s game on TNT (10:30 p.m. ET) against the Los Angeles Lakers will get some attention, even if Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash aren’t involved.
Might Hurt a Bit
The Trail Blazers (48-27 SU, 41-34 ATS) had a horrible midseason slump against the NBA lines, going 7-17 ATS for six weeks starting in mid-December. Call it a market correction after Portland got off to an unusually hot start in the shooting department. But more recently, the betting market for the Blazers has been thrown for a loop by Aldridge and his two injury layoffs.
The first layoff began on Feb. 19, when Aldridge was taken out of the lineup with a strained left groin. The former Texas Longhorn had been playing through pain in the weeks leading up to his absence, and he clearly wasn’t at 100 percent, which would partly explain why Portland improved to 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS in the five games he missed. And Aldridge wasn’t all that comfortable upon his return; the Blazers were 2-5 SU and ATS until he was injured again, this time after taking a hard fall on his back.
You can probably see where this is headed. Aldridge sat out another seven games with his sore back, and Portland went 3-4 SU and 4-3 ATS during that span. Cash money, baby. However, things seem different this time now that Aldridge is playing again. He looks much healthier, and the Blazers are playing with more aplomb after threatening to fall completely out of the playoff picture. That’s motivation for you.
What motivates the Lakers (25-48 SU, 37-35-1 ATS) these days? The love of the game? Actually, there are plenty of youngsters and fringe veterans who are getting a rare chance to play big minutes in the No. 1 market in the NBA. Kendall Marshall (12.5 PER) and Kent Bazemore (13.6 PER) have been getting plenty of burn. So have Jodie Meeks (14.7 PER) and Nick Young (14.6 PER). All four of these guys would presumably like to continue playing for the Lakers.
That might not be the case for forwards Jordan Hill (18.7 PER) and Chris Kaman (17.5 PER). They’ve been woefully underused by coach Mike D’Antoni, and the relationship seems especially sour in Kaman’s case. But with Pau Gasol (19.6 PER) experiencing vertigo, Kaman got the start on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns (–9.5), and he put up 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists in a 115-99 Lakers victory. Somebody somewhere will give him a contract.
So who’ll be playing for the Lakers on Tuesday? It appears that Gasol will be back in action, and when asked about how the big Spaniard’s return would affect Kaman’s status, D’Antoni was non-committal, pointing out the need to give Robert Sacre (12.1 PER) his minutes. Good gravy. The Lakers have opened as 7.5-point home dogs on the NBA lines, but I’m not thrilled about recommending the Robert Sacre Experience.
NBA Pick: Take Portland –7.5 (–104) at Marathon