The Toronto Raptors held James Harden to his second-lowest scoring game of the season in Thursday's meeting with the Houston Rockets, but it came at a cost.
In sending double teams at the superstar almost as soon as he crossed half court, Houston's shooters found themselves open time and time again, leading to the Rockets making 22 of their 55 3-point attempts.
Ben McLemore, who signed a two-year, partially guaranteed contract with the Rockets in the offseason, was at the forefront of the team's success from the perimeter. He scored a season-high 28 points on 8-for-17 shooting from 3-point range.
Led by McLemore, the Rockets defeated the Raptors on their homecourt by a final score of 119-109, handing Toronto its second straight loss.
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"It was an interesting experiment," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of how they defended Harden, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN. "If the result was the other way around, we'd probably be saying it was a great experiment. But you've gotta look at it more closely. I've never run that scheme before. There's probably a lot of polish we can put on it to make it better."
The Raptors have defended other superstars in a similar fashion so far this season, albeit not quite at the same extreme. They've had success against a number of players, including Kawhi Leonard, who shot 2-for-11 from the field and committed a career-high nine turnovers in Toronto's loss to the LA Clippers on Nov. 11.
Damian Lillard, LeBron James and Joel Embiid also had subpar games by their usual standards in their early season matchups with the Raptors.
"We've definitely stretched the spectrum this year in trying different things," Fred VanVleet said after the game. "It didn't go our way. If we would've scored 11 more points we'd be geniuses and the defence was the best in the world and we would've been Harden-stoppers. But we lost and so it didn't work and you go back to the drawing board."
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With the loss, the Raptors are now 15-6 on the season, moving them into third place in the Eastern Conference standings alongside the Miami Heat, who they lost to earlier in the week in overtime.
The Raptors are back in action on Sunday, when they take on the Joel Embiid's Philadelphia 76ers.
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