Cleveland at Portland
Time: 9 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: POR -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Much ado about the fate of free-agent-to-be LeBron James: Teams are already posting billboards and beginning their recruiting campaigns, while this season wanes and it could possibly be LeBron’s last in his home state. James got his way at the trade deadline when the Cavs basically restructured its entire team, but the results have been mostly mediocre. It may be the time in James career when he finally realizes that he cannot win without two superstars (like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) by his side.
While that is no knock on Kevin Love, James’ Cavs this year are less talent than the teams he played with in Miami, and though he did win a title two years ago, few are expecting a return to the Finals, never mind an improbable win over the stacked Golden State Warriors.?It is no fault of James, though, really.
He has played excellent basketball and is still arguably the most dominant offensive force in the league. His stats obviously support that, as he is averaging 27 points, eight rebounds and nine assists per game while posting an extra-worldly PER of 28.0.
Love has been a solid second-fiddle with 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, but in order for Cleveland to really contend, he would nearly have to revert to the form he once showed as a Minnesota Timberwolf. The Cavs did make a couple nice additions at the trade deadline by adding former Cavalier legend Larry Nance’s son, Larry Jr., as well as Jordan Clarkson.
The Cavs also parted ways with the declining Wade, sending him back to Miami to finish his career. Perhaps the most clutch additions were those of George Hill and Rodney Hood, but neither has been outstanding since coming to Cleveland. The Cavs now have the odd task of adding so many players and trying to gel and reach form in a matter of a month and a half before the postseason.
One-time MVP Derrick Rose is firmly out of the picture, and perhaps now Cleveland is done adding washed up veterans in hopes to keep LeBron afloat. Maybe the Cavs just let LBJ walk and rebuild their team around Hood and Nance, and whatever lottery picks they obtain with the pick it picked up at the deadline.?To be certain, it would require a near-miracle for James and company to usurp the Warriors’ title hopes, and few are picking Cleveland in any respective series against Toronto or Boston. The ship has simply sailed for the Cavs; most likely, anyway.
Portland has won 9-straight games, including an impressive 125-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors most recently. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 58 points on combined 18 of 40 shooting, as the pair hit nine threes between them. Lillard also dished out eight assists in the game, as the Blazers were able to overcome a 40-point effort from Kevin Durant.
Warriors’ MVP Stephen Curry did sit out or the Warriors, but the Blazers did a masterful job of limiting Klay Thompson and holding the Dubs’ bench to just 18 points. Portland shot nearly 50 percent from the field in the game, and starting center Jusuf Nurkic had a double-double in just 21 minutes of play.
That is one of Nurkic’s most limiting factors, in that he is just not able to log heavy minutes really, and the Blazers’ backup bigs have typically fallen short. Not so much recently. Rookie Zach Collins shot 5 of 6 from the floor for 12 points and four rebounds off the bench, and Ed Davis is a consistent offensive threat and fair defender with some veteran presence.
If Portland can overcome its lack of front court depth, it could ride the Lillard-McCollum pairing deep into the postseason, though few are giving Portland much of a chance in a seven-game series against Golden State or Houston.
Even with a major victory like its last against Golden State, sustainability is the next on Portland’s checklist before it can be considered a true contender in the staunch Western Conference.