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Raptors’ Nick Nurse planning to use mystery defense against Rockets’ James Harden

Nick Nurse, James Harden

Finding a way to guard against Houston Rockets guard James Harden has been pretty fruitless.

But Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse thinks he might have the “mystery” scheme to keep Harden’s numbers down on Thursday night. Nurse hinted that the Raptors could play a little bit of zone against Houston’s backcourt while possibly deploying some kind of internal defense:

The Raptors have been one of the most successful defensive teams in the NBA. They rank fifth in the NBA in defensive rating and seventh in opponents scoring average, according to Basketball Reference.

Nurse has empowered the Raptors as a defensive team despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard. Toronto center Marc Gasol totally shut down Sixers center Joel Embiid last Monday, and both OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam have been elite wing defenders.

Harden, meanwhile, is on a total rampage. After torching the Atlanta Hawks for 60 points in just three quarters on Saturday, Harden went off for 50 more against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. He might have had two more, were it not for a controversial dunk that did not end up counting.

“The Beard” upped his scoring average to 39.5 points per game, and Harden is also averaging 7.8 assists and 6.1 rebounds per contest.

However, efficiency has come and gone. While Harden shot 16-of-24 against the Hawks, he was just 11-of-28 from the floor against the Spurs. What has not changed is his ability to draw contact at the rim.

Harden has racked up a whopping 47 free-throw attempts over the last two games, so the Raptors will need to keep him out of the lane to keep him from scoring.