Each Thursday, prop-purveyor Alan Goldsher is going to drop three extreme NBA Name A Bets, and break down why you should or shouldn’t take a flyer on one of these long (and sometimes super-long) shots.
Thursday: Clippers at Rockets
James Harden and Russell Westbrook – 71 points and 18 assists: +2500
The Case For: They’ll deny it until you pry the basketball from their cold, dead hands, but Harden and Westbrook might well love themselves some stats more than they do wins. Like there’s a decent chance if you injected either of them with truth serum and asked, “Championship ring or averaging a quadruple-double for a season?” the inflated numbers might rule the day. But this matchup could offer the duo the best of both worlds. In a massive home tilt against a conference rival that sits 2 1/2 games ahead of Houston in the standings, Harden and Westbrook will be hell-bent on winning, and if winning involves topping their combined season averages by nine points and four assists, respectively – which isn’t a whole lot for those stat monsters, really – so be it.
The Case Against: Hot take: The Clippers are good at defense. During their current five-game win streak, they’ve held three opponents under 100 points, and when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are both in the lineup, the team’s defensive rating is a super-solid 105.2. More tellingly, this is the fourth time the Clips and the Rockets have met this season, and in the first three contests, the Westy/Beard combo platter averaged 63.6 points and 14.0 assists … right around their season average, but not quite the 71/18 mountain this market requires us to climb.
Friday: Heat at Pelicans
Zion Williamson – 38 combined points and rebounds: +450
The Case For: Did you know that over the past 30 calendar days, Zion is the ninth-leading scorer in the Association, and his 26.5-ppg average over that stretch is a mere 1.5 points behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and 0.9 points behind LeBron James? (Of course you didn’t know that, because you have better things to do with your time than mine oddball statistics. We nerd out on numbers, so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.) And did you know that Z has topped 30 minutes of court time in seven of his last eight games? (You’re welcome again.) And did you also know that in three of his last nine games, he’s tied or exceeded our proposed 38 points/rebounds mashup? (You’re welcome again.) In this nationally-televised outing against a quality opponent, Zion might well break the box score.
The Case Against: This will be Zion’s third game in four nights, and the rookie has yet to experience the joys of playing way too many games in way too few days with way too little rest. Couple that with the fact that Miami ranks 11th in the NBA in points allowed, then triple that with the fact that the Heat are a mere four days removed from holding Antetokounmpo to a season-low 13 points, and you have the potential for a merely mortal performance from Mr. Williamson.
Saturday: 76ers at Warriors
Shake Milton – 36 combined points/rebounds/assists/blocks/steals: +1000
The Case For: Show of hands: Before last month, how many of you really knew who Shake Milton was? If your hand is raised and you’re not 1) a Sixers fan; 2) a member of the Milton family; or 3) an SMU alumnus, chances are pretty good that you’re lying. But chances are also pretty good that in this post-Ben Simmons landscape, you’re now well aware of Milton and his offensive prowess, especially after last Sunday’s 39-point outburst against that aforementioned Clippers D.
The Shake-ster came back to Earth the following night with a meh 12-point outing against the Lakers – granted, the Lakers have been known to force a meh performance or two – but Milton is nonetheless legit. To wit, over the last two weeks, in the three games he’s played 30-plus minutes, he’s averaged 26.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks. That, people, equals 34.8, and against a Warriors team that’s allowed an average of 117.9 points over its last 11 games, that whole 36 all-in thing seems well within reach.
The Case Against: There’s no way to sugarcoat this, people: When they’re away from Philadelphia, the Sixers stink. Their road woes have been well documented, but as a reminder, their record away from the Wells Fargo Center is disconcertingly similar to the Cavs and Knicks. Also, as a whole, the team isn’t playing particularly well – understandable considering the injuries to Simmons and Joel Embiid – with their only victories since Feb. 22 coming at home against those lousy Knicks and equally lousy Hawks. That all being the case, Milton and the Sixers might have trouble racking up supernatural digits, even against the lowly Dubs.