DALLAS – If the Dallas Mavericks plan on winning their home opener, they’re going to find a way to contain Houston Rockets guard James Harden.
In the Rockets’ 120-114 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night in both teams’ season opener, Harden responded with 34 points, eight rebounds and a career-high 17 assists. That had the alarm bells sounding in the headquarters of the Mavs, who host the Rockets on Friday night at 7:30 at American Airlines Center.
"He’s an MVP candidate – let’s be honest,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said about Harden after Thursday’s practice. "He’s a great player and we’re going to have to work to make it as hard as possible on him.
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"But 34 (points) and 17 (assists) last night, it’s one of the toughest guards there is in the league.’’
Harden is one of the most difficult players to guard because the way he uses his speed to attack the basket, and because of his step-back jumper and other various moves in his vast repertoire. And it becomes even more difficult because he has the basketball more than any other player on the Rockets’ squad.
"Obviously, James had a big night last night against the Lakers and we’ve got to do a good job of taking some of that away,’’ swingman Justin Anderson said. "We’ll lock in on film and be ready to come play another hard-fought game tomorrow night.’’
The Mavs will likely give Harden some different looks on defense in an attempt to slow him down and wear him out. And they hope it’ll give them a template going forward, since they also will play the Rockets on Sunday in Houston.
"He kind of has to make quicker decisions depending on who he’s guarding,’’ Anderson said. "And if you keep certain people coming at him at different points of the game I think it helps us out a lot.
"We’re going to see them two times in the next (four) days, so it’s important for us to keep our (strategy) in-house. We know what we need to do to prepare for it, and hopefully we can put our best foot forward here tomorrow night.’’