Do I think that LeBron James personally likes his buddy Carmelo Anthony better than he does teammate Kevin Love? No question. But James has to know that Love is the better player at this point and is four years younger than Anthony - thus would be a better teammate to have over the next handful of years as LeBron winds down his Hall of Famer career. The big rumor this week was that James reportedly was pushing Cavs management to trade for Melo, even if it meant sending Love to New York. The Knicks would do that today, but the Cavs have smartly said no thanks. James absolutely shot down that rumor, calling both it and the New York Post writer who reported it, Frank Isola, "trash." Cavaliers general manager David Griffin was also adamant that the report was wrong. Isola stands by his story, and I'm sure that someone in the Knicks front office told him something like that, but only to put it out there and perhaps put pressure on the Cavs. I'm a former newspaper guy, and I think it's a joke how many "one-source" stories get out there these days. The common standard used to be two independent sources for any story to run. That was also before blogs and Twitter. As for Melo, I still think it's more likely than not that he is gone by the Feb. 23 deadline but not to Cleveland.
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Rockets at Hornets ( +3.5, 224.5)
Houston won its second in a row Tuesday, 128-104 over Orlando. James Harden had 25 points and 13 assists. He had gone a season-long four games without at least 10 assists. Clint Capela had 17 points to extend his streak of games with at least 10 points to a career-high eight straight games. Charlotte ended a seven-game losing streak by beating sorry Brooklyn 111-107 on Tuesday. Nic Batum, Kemba Walker and Marco Belinelli each had 17 points to lead the Hornets as seven players scored in double digits. Houston beat Charlotte 121-114 on Jan. 10 behind 40 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists from Harden. The Rockets lost last year in Charlotte.
Key trends: The Rockets are 1-7 against the spread in their past eight after a win. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six of Charlotte's past seven at home.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
76ers at Magic (TBA)
Philadelphia hosted San Antonio on Wednesday with Joel Embiid out again due to a knee injury, and he won't play here. Orlando was blown out a second straight game Tuesday, 128-104 in Houston. Serge Ibaka, who is on the trade market, had 28 points for the Magic and Evan Fournier added 21. Aaron Gordon injured his foot and was in a walking boot so it seems likely he will miss some time. It wasn't, at least, the same foot (right) he fractured as a rookie. Orlando is 2-0 vs. Philadelphia this season and has taken 12 of the past 15 in the series.
Key trends: The road team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Wait on Gordon.
Cavaliers at Thunder (+3, 218)
First of a TNT doubleheader. Don't rule out James or Kyrie Irving or Love getting a night off here - I think it happens -- for the Cavs as they had the huge game Monday in Washington and then played Wednesday night at Indiana (maybe one sits out there, but James was playing). Cleveland then plays again Saturday and the Cavs generally keep their stars in at home. OKC has been off since its two-game winning streak ended Monday in Indiana, 93-90. The Thunder led by 11 at the half. Russell Westbrook had 27 points (but 10-for-27 shooting), a season-high 18 rebounds and nine assists. He missed two late 3-pointers. Cleveland goes for the season sweep after a 107-91 home win over OKC on Jan. 29. Irving scored 29 points and James had 25 and 14 rebounds.
Key trends: The Thunder are 7-1 ATS in their past eight at home. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Thunder and under.
Jazz at Mavericks (+3, 195)
Utah was in New Orleans on Wednesday likely without guard Rodney Hood again. Dallas lost its second consecutive game Tuesday, 114-113 at home to Portland - falling on a shot with 0.9 seconds left. Dirk Nowitzki finished with 25 points that included two clutch 3-pointers, the second a potential game-winner with 3.9 seconds left. Seth Curry hurt his shoulder but did return. Utah goes for the four-game season sweep vs. Dallas and has taken the past two in Big D.
Key trends: The Jazz are 1-4-1 ATS in their past six in Dallas. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Mavericks and over.
Celtics at Trail Blazers (pick'em, 220.5)
Second TNT game. Boston was in Sacramento on Wednesday to start a four-game Western Conference trip. Portland ended a two-game slide with a 114-113 win in Dallas on Tuesday on C.J. McCollum's runner with 0.9 seconds left. He had 32 points and Damian Lillard 29. Blazers top reserve Evan Turner, the team's big free-agent acquisition (who has largely been a bust), broke his right hand in the third quarter and obviously will be out a while. Turner averages 9.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Portland won in Boston 127-123 in OT on Jan. 21 behind a combined 63 points from McCollum and Lillard. The Blazers have won three of the past four meetings at home as well.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 12-2 in Portland's past 14 on Thursday.
Early lean: Celtics and over.
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