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Mavericks face tall task trying to slow Rockets’ James Harden

Mavericks rookie Justin Anderson expected his fifth start to include turns defending Rockets guard James Harden. He won’t be the only one.

Anderson has matched up with New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins in recent games. His energy level running the floor and moving without the ball can keep players with the offensive load Harden carries busy on the other end. The Mavericks, however, expect to rotate players, likely including Wesley Matthews, on Harden, along with the rookie.

“He’s one of the best scorers in the history of the game,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “You talk about all the skills he brings, the ability to get fouled, make long-range shots and drive it, get and-ones and everything else. It’s a tall task. It’s a multiplayer task. You have to keep throwing bodies at him. We have to do a good job as a team. Otherwise, he can run up a lot of points quickly.”

Harden has not put up his usual numbers against the Mavericks this season, averaging 24.3 points on 35.5 percent shooting. He averaged 28.4 points on 46.5 percent shooting in last season’s first-round playoff series against Dallas. After scoring 41 points Sunday, Harden has 11 40-point games, one shy of Stephen Curry’s league lead.

“You got to keep him in front, you got to stay solid, you got to use your strength, physicality,” Anderson said. “He’s very physical so you have to match his level of physicality. Obviously, he’s wired to score the ball in a special way. At the same time, I’m just going to play fearless, relentless.

“You have to keep him off the free throw line. Everyone says when he goes in you have to keep your hands out of the cookie jar. That’s easier said than done. You got to make sure you stay disciplined to keep your hands up. Before the game, it’s easy to talk about it. But once the challenge is right there in front of you, you have to step up. Everything else goes out the window.”

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