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Rockets star James Harden had his lowest usage rate in 6 years in win over Raptors

James Harden, Rockets

The Toronto Raptors went to some extreme measures to limit James Harden’s incandescent scoring abilities on Thursday, swarming him with bodies, trapping him, and forcing the league MVP runner-up to play through others. The Houston Rockets came away with a 119-109 win, but the Raptors’ strategy was successful, limiting The Beard to his lowest usage rate in the past six years.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse knew he had to opt for some odd tactics, considering that Harden was coming off games scoring 60 and 50 points, all while making 47 trips to the foul line in his last two games.

According to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, Harden had his lowest usage rate in over six years, as he attempted only 11 shots from the floor and went to the line six times.

“Factoring in shot attempts, fouls drawn, assists and turnovers, Harden was 30 percent less involved than his next least-involved game and about half as involved as he normally is. It was his lowest usage rate in over six years. Had you told Nurse that Harden would have such little imprint on the box score before the game, he probably would have accepted whatever 3-point and rebounding trouble that would come with it.”

Harden’s stat line of 23 points, seven rebounds, and three assists was by no means spectacular, considering his standards — but he was able to hurt the Raptors with his efficiency, making seven of his 11 shot attempts, including 3-of-5 from deep and a clean 6-of-6 from the foul line.

The Raptors succeeded in their initial mission — to make other Rockets beat them. Yet it was The Beard who got the last laugh with a win to shake off the sour taste of a double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.