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NBA Betting Observations: The Dawn of the Carmelo Anthony Era in Portland


After the stop-start schedule created by the Thanksgiving weekend, normal service has resumed in the NBA. Let’s take a look at the Portland Trailblazers, whose recent signing of Carmelo Anthony has become one of the league’s biggest stories. Can last year’s Western Conference Finalists begin the process of salvaging their season? 

Portland Trail Blazers (8-13 SU, 9-11-1 ATS) 

On the heels of an inspiring playoff run last season, optimism reigned supreme in Portland over the summer. Bettors could be excused for thinking that the preseason win total future of 46.5 was just the latest example in the public and the market underestimating a Portland team that had won 53 and 49 games in its last two season. Damian Lillard was now rightfully recognized as a bonafide superstar, and the team’s encouraging playoff performances may have suggested that the team would continue to cope without its starting center Jusuf Nurkic. However, the continuity that had helped build Portland into a contender quietly eroded over the summer. Glue guys like Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless departed, and it’s not unfair to suggest that the value they brought to the table was underestimated. Portland was desperate for help upfront, and took a chance on the enigmatic Hassan Whiteside. When young prospect Zach Collins, from whom much was expected, suffered a long-term injury, the lack of depth was magnified. Now, the team was giving serious run to the likes of Skal Labissiere, Mario Hezonja, and Kent Bazemore. The team was bringing youngster Anfernee Simons along. A culture that had been built on familiarity was suddenly defined by a serious transition, and a roster of bit parts that had not played together. 

Into this uncertainty, stepped one Carmelo Anthony. It’s hard to not feel as though the move was at least a little bit desperate, but Anthony has started his Portland career very well, including earning a somewhat disputed Western Conference Player of the Week Award. After losing the first three games of the Anthony era, Portland ran off three wins in a row. As valuable as his production was in those victories, he also seemed to make life easier for stars Lillard and CJ McCollum. The two players combined to shoot 43-for-89 from the field in the recent three-game winning streak. However, the situation is so new that it’s difficult to read too much into the brief uptick in form, and a 20-point blowout defeat at the Clippers on Tuesday shows the team still has some very real limitations. 

That said, Portland should take some comfort in the fact that it has played a league-low seven games at home this season. The Trailblazers are a disappointing 3-4 SU and 2-4-1 ATS in those gamesThere are a couple things to keep in mind, however. First, three of those losses came to Toronto, Philadelphia, and Denver, who are all in the top 11 in net rating so far this season. Second, the anomaly of the Portland schedule has it that it is early December and the team has yet to play more than two games in a row on its home floor. After losing its opening game to Denver, Portland played six of its next seven on the road. The team has already endured both four and six-game road trips. The unsettling nature of Portland’s schedule has only exacerbated the unsettled nature of the rotation. Practice time has been limited. The new pieces have struggled to bed in to Terry Stotts’ great scheme. 

Tonight, finally, comes a chance for Portland to get in a routine. The Trailblazers will play four games in a row at home over the next six days. Complicating things slightly is that tonight’s game against Sacramento will be the second of a back-to-back, following the loss in Los Angeles. But, this is a matchup that Portland can handle. The Kings remain without De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, and the absence of Fox is magnified further still with news that guard Bojan Bogdanovic is banged up, and questionable for tonight’s game. Even if he does go, Bogdanovic has admitted he’s dealing with consistent pain. If he’s on the floor and slowed, the Blazers backcourt could roast him time and again. If he’s out, Portland have to love the matchup of Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell against its two stars.  

Next up after Sacramento comes the Los Angeles Lakers. While the Lakers have won 11 of 12 games, and nine straight on the road, this spot is a good one for Portland to face the Western Conference leaders. This will be the third game in four nights for Los Angeles, and it comes after two tough away games in Denver and Utah. This travel schedule is only made more difficult by news that Anthony Davis and several other Lakers players are dealing with flu-like symptoms. This Lakers team could be worn down by the time it plays Portland on Friday.  

The homestand is well-spaced out for the Trail Blazers. Portland will have a day off between each of the four games, which will help energy levels and allow for some practice time. The last two games come against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks. Bettors can surely count on big efforts from Portland in these spots, as the games are about as close to must-win that early December matchups can be. Portland simply must stop the bleeding. Add to that an in-form Carmelo Anthony, who will no doubt have an element of revenge on his mind when he faces two of his former teams on Sunday and Tuesday. If he can avoid pressing the issue too hard, and take what comes his way, he could be critical in making sure these much-needed wins are gotten.