DALLAS – At some point tonight, Dallas Mavericks forward Justin Anderson will find himself matched up against Houston Rockets All-Star James Harden.
And for a rookie who is just now finding his way in the NBA, that’s a daunting task. A task Anderson is more than prepared to take on.
"You got to keep him in front of you, you got to stay solid, you got to use your strength, physicality,’’ Anderson said in mapping out his plan of attack against Harden. "He’s very physical, so you’ve got to match his level of physicality and his intensity.’’
Harden is second in the league in scoring at 28.7 points per game, and also averages 7.5 assists and 6.3 rebounds. He has the ball in his hands more than any other member of the Rockets, which makes for some challenging moments for the defense.
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"Obviously he’s wired to score the ball in a special way,’’ Anderson said. "But at the same time I’m just going to play fierceless, relentless and keep going.’’
Playing fierceless and relentless is difficult to do against a player like Harden, who has more free throw attempts (800) than any player in the NBA this season.
"That’s what helps him get going is seeing the ball go in through the free throw line. Everyone says when he goes in (to drive to the basket) keep your hands out of the cookie jar.
"It’s easier said than done. You’ve got to make sure that you’re staying discipline, so just keep your hands up and maybe try and block the shot rather than trying to steal it.’’
In the last five games Harden has averaged 31.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 9.2 assists. The Mavs (39-38) hope to put a dent in those numbers when they entertain the Rockets (38-39) tonight at 8:30 at American Airlines Center.
"He’s one of the best scorers, really, in the history of the game,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "You talk about all the skills that he brings and the ability to get fouled and make long range shots and drive it, getting and-ones and everything else.
"It’s a tall task, it’s a multi-player task as far as we see it. We’ve got to keep running bodies at him and we’ve got to do a good job as a team, otherwise he can run up a lot of points quickly.’’
Whenever he gets his turn guarding Harden, Anderson knows the Mavs can ill-afford to leave him hanging on an island to defend the seven-year veteran by himself.
"It’s one of those things where before the game it’s easier to talk about it,’’ Anderson said. "But once the challenge is right in front of you you’ve got to just step up, everything else goes out the window and you’ve got to play as hard as you can.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com