DALLAS he biggest challenge facing the Dallas Mavericks going into Sunday night’s game against Oklahoma City was how they were going to be able to contain Thunder mercurial point guard Russell Westbrook.
It also was the first big challenge for point guard Rajon Rondo, who the Mavericks obtained in a Dec. 18 trade with the Boston Celtics for specific defensive assignments such as the one he faced Sunday.
Considering how Westbrook stumbled all night during the Mavericks’ 112-107 victory over the Thunder, Rondo obviously won this much anticipated matchup.
Westbrook finished with just 18 points on 6-of-23 shots. Although he also picked up nine rebounds, nine assists and five steals, he also committed five fouls and turned the ball over five times.
“I can’t take all the credit it,’’ a modest Rondo said. “It was a great team effort defensively.
“I just tried to keep a body in front of him.’’
Everywhere Westbrook turned he was met with some resistance.
“We made it tough for him all night,’’ said Monta Ellis, who also took a turn guarding Westbrook. “We knew coming into the game that he’d been hot for the last few games.
“We weren’t going to let him beat us. It was a total team effort and we came out with a win. We were just aggressive in challenging his shot.’’
Westbrook had scored 25 or more points in 11 consecutive games entering Sunday’s contest. But he was hounded all night and got flustered at the hands of Rondo, who also contributed 15 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
“Rondo did a great job, Devin (Harris) did a great job, Monta had him for a little bit,’’ forward Chandler Parsons said. “We knew it was going to be a team effort guarding a guy like him who’s been playing out of this world.’’
Obviously, going into a contest when one of the game’s best players is in town will immediately get everyone’s attention. Such was the case with Westbrook.
“He’s been playing great,’’ Rondo said. “I think he’s been averaging 33 in the last 10 games.
“But it’s not going to be one guy who stops Westbrook. It was a great team effort tonight.