How influential is LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers? Let's just say you shouldn't expect to see the Cavs use sleeved jerseys the rest of the season. Cleveland debuted a new black alternate sleeved jersey against the Knicks on Wednesday. After starting the game 4-for-11 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free-throw line, James ripped open the sleeves on both arms after missing a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter. James did practice in the sleeved jersey and gave his OK before the team added it to the uniform rotation. Will LeBron have veto power going forward? When a team adds a new uniform to its collection, it must wear that jersey at least three times during the season, according to the NBA. But I have a feeling that if LeBron doesn't want those jerseys around the rest of the season, they won't be. And he can probably auction off Wednesday's ripped one for a nice chunk of change to donate to charity.
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Raptors at Magic (TBA)
Toronto improved to 5-0 with a very impressive 103-98 win in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night -- might this then be a letdown game? DeMar DeRozan scored 10 of his 28 points in the fourth as the Raptors rallied from eight down in the final six minutes. Even more impressive: that was the second of a back-to-back for the Raptors. Orlando lost in the second of a back-to-back Wednesday, 119-114 in overtime in Houston to complete a three-game road trip. The bad news from that was Magic center Nikola Vucevic had to leave with what is being called for now a sprain. He probably gets an MRI on Thursday, however. I'd consider him questionable at best in this one (why TBA).
Key trends: Toronto has covered six of the past nine meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six straight Magic games vs. the East.
Early lean: Magic will be fairly big dogs and cover even without Vucevic.
Wizards at Celtics (-2.5, 202.5)
Washington could be a bit flat here as it's off a thrilling 102-99 home win over San Antonio on Wednesday as Bradley Beal hit a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left. Beal and John Wall had the Wizards' final 15 points of the game. Boston dropped to 1-3 with Wednesday's 100-98 loss at Indiana. Avery Bradley missed a potential winning 3-pointer. Guard Marcus Smart, a great defender, missed the game with a toe injury so monitor him here -- he would be needed against this stellar Washington backcourt. Isaiah Thomas started in his place against the Pacers.
Key trends: Washington is 7-2 ATS in its past nine road games. The over is 7-2 in the past nine meetings.
Early lean: Take C's if Smart plays, Wizards if not.
Lakers at Nets (-4.5, 204)
These winless clubs might be the two worst teams in the NBA right now -- yes, even worse than the 76ers. The Lakers were beaten at home by a bad Denver team 120-109 on Tuesday. Kobe Bryant had three airballs and finished with only 11 points. He had more fouls (five) than field goals (four). Bryant is shooting 32 percent from the field this season (20 of 62). No. 2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell was outplayed by fellow rookie Emmanuel Mudiay. Brooklyn has allowed triple digits in all five losses and not reached 100 in its past four. It was beaten 101-87 in Atlanta on Wednesday. Joe Johnson, the NBA's most overpaid player, was 1-for-10 for five points in that one.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-6 ATS in their past seven following a double-digit home loss. The under is 8-1 in the past nine meetings in Brooklyn.
Early lean: Nets and over.
76ers at Cavaliers (-16, 198)
On paper, this looks like one of the biggest mismatches of the season. But the Sixers actually played the visiting Cavaliers tough on Monday, only losing 107-100. Projected Philly starting guard Robert Covington made his season debut in that one off a knee problem and played 22 minutes. But he re-aggravated his MCL sprain and sat out Wednesday's loss in Milwaukee. You won't see Covington again for probably two weeks. Cleveland beat the Knicks 96-86 on Wednesday for its fourth straight win. The Cavs did have to rally from a 15-point deficit. J.R. Smith missed that one with a bruised knee and won't play here.
Key trends: The Sixers are 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings! The under is 10-2 in the past 12.
Early lean: I doubt LeBron plays heavy minutes here (if at all?). Take the points. Go under.
Bucks at Knicks (TBA)
Milwaukee beat the visiting Sixers 91-87 on Wednesday for its second straight win. In his season debut off ACL surgery, Jabari Parker finished 1-for-6 for two points in 16 minutes. That's about the number of minutes you can expect from him for a while. Bucks starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams missed the game against his former team with a sore left ankle, while big man John Henson sat out again with a left Achilles' tendon issue. Decent chance both could play here. New York lost by 10 in Cleveland on Wednesday. The Knicks beat the Bucks 122-97 in Milwaukee in the season opener for both. Knicks guard Arron Afflalo (strained left hamstring) could make his season debut this weekend.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 6-2 in the past eight.
Early lean: Wait on MCW and Henson. If they play, Bucks should win.
Heat at Pacers (+1.5, 197)
This is the ESPN doubleheader opener and thus should have live betting at sportsbooks. Miami was in Minnesota on Thursday. So that this is the second of a back-to-back makes me nervous about Dwyane Wade playing. Indiana beat Boston 100-98 on Wednesday for its second straight win. Monta Ellis made two free throws with 13.7 seconds left to snap a 98-all tie. Paul George had 26 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Indiana has won seven straight home meetings against Miami dating to the 2011-12 season when LeBron was still with the Heat.
Key trends: The Heat are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 8-3 in Indiana's past 11 at home.
Early lean: Pacers and over.
Hawks at Pelicans (+1, 200.5)
New Orleans has been a huge disappointment as it looks for its first win here. The Pelicans have been off since a 103-94 home loss to the Magic on Tuesday. Defense has been a major issue thus far. Center Omer Asik missed that game and has played just one thus far due to a calf injury. He's questionable. Atlanta won a fourth straight Wednesday, 101-87 over the Nets. The Hawks shot 59 percent from the field and had only six giveaways. Kyle Korver got that game off to rest his surgically repaired right ankle. He should be back.
Key trends: Atlanta is 1-6 ATS in its past seven following an ATS win. The under is 9-2 in New Orleans' past 11 after a loss.
Early lean: Hawks only 1-point favorites? Take Atlanta and over.
Pistons at Suns (-5, 204)
Detroit suffered its first loss of the season on Tuesday, 94-82 against Indiana. Why? The Pistons bench was outscored a ridiculous 43-2. Andre Drummond is playing like an MVP candidate right now, though, as he had 25 points and 29 rebounds in becoming the first Piston since at least 1985 with back-to-back 20/20 games. This starts a six-game West Coast trip for Detroit. Phoenix routed Sacramento 118-97 on Wednesday. The Suns were 14-for-23 from long range, had six players in double figures and never trailed. The Pistons and Suns split last season, each going down to the wire.
Key trends: Detroit is 10-1 ATS in its past 11 after a loss of at least 10 points. The Pistons are 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 12-3 in the Suns' past 15 at home.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Nuggets at Warriors (-14.5, 214.5)
Second of a back-to-back for Denver as it hosted Utah on Thursday. I'm about out of superlatives for the Warriors. They actually didn't cover for the first time Wednesday night but rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Clippers 112-108 in probably the best NBA game thus far in the new season. Steph Curry continued his insane start with 31 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with about a minute left. Golden State became just the fifth team in NBA history to start 5-0 in consecutive seasons. Three of the previous four teams to do that won back-to-back titles. Golden State's plus-104 point differential is the fifth-best margin through five games in NBA history.
Key trends: Warriors are 9-4 ATS in past 13 meetings. Under has hit in 10 of Golden State's past 14 at home.
Early lean: Nuggets cover. Warriors in a trap game here off Clippers win and another game Saturday.
Rockets at Kings (TBA)
This is the ESPN nightcap and also should have live betting. Will Sacramento get All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins back for this one? He has missed the past two with an Achilles' strain, but there is optimism he can play here. Predictably, the Kings were blown out in the two games he missed. The Kings are 11-35 without Cousins since he entered the NBA in 2010-11. Houston beat visiting Orlando in overtime Wednesday for its second straight win. James Harden had 28 points but was only 6-for-22, his fourth game already shooting less than 30 percent. It's not clear if backup Houston point guard Patrick Beverley will play here. He left the Orlando game after getting hit in the side of the head.
Key trends: Houston is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. Over has hit in four of past six.
Early lean: Have to wait on Cousins, obviously why the TBA. Houston should win regardless.
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