Stopping James Harden, or at least slowing him down, is possible. Rookie OG Anunoby showed his impressive ability on both sides of the ball in the Toronto Raptors 129-113 win over the Houston Rockets.
Anunoby, 20, played 30 minutes for the first time in his short NBA career, finishing with a career high 16 points (first double-digit game) while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.
And while the offense of the former Indiana player (1st round, 23rd pick in the 2017 draft), it was his defense on Harden that really caught everyone’s eye. Harden finished the game with 38 points, but 19 of them from the line, while he shot 40% from the field and turned the ball over 9 times.
He was quite miserable when Anunoby was on the floor: In 23 minutes, he was only 2-for-15 from the field and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc, turning the ball over 6 times and posting a -12 when Anunoby was playing, usually guarding Harden. He was +10 when Anunoby was on the bench, shooting 60% from the field.
Averaging 6.5 points in 18.6 minutes per game is nice, but a couple of more performances like these from Anunoby will mean a lot more minutes very soon. If he’s capable of doing it on back-to-back nights (playing the Pelicans, who pose a very different type of threat), the Raptors will know they’ve snatched themselves quite a steal.
And Harden? Anunoby only exposed something about him many knew: A long, athletic small forward who can keep up with Harden while he’s with the ball will always make it difficult for him, because Harden rarely does any off the ball movement. This isn’t going to stop Harden from getting his points most of the time, but it might give other teams an idea of how to make things a lot more difficult for him.