People are asking questions again about Rajon Rondo’s fit with the Dallas Mavericks after his first game back from injury was a dud. The Mavs weren’t really competitive in a loss to OKC on Wednesday, before bouncing back with a 111-100 win over the Rockets. But the Rockets win is more significant than the OKC loss. Here’s why: the Mavs are significantly better on defense since Rondo’s arrival. They held Houston, led by scoring machine James Harden, to 41.4% shooting in the win.
It’s defense that defines teams that go deep in the playoffs. Dallas, despite its poor shooting against the Thunder and lack of flow since the Rondo trade, will be a solid offensive team going forward–maybe even a great one. (The Mavs currently rank third in the league in offensive efficiency.) Adjustments clearly need to be made for a player of Rondo’s unique and broad skill set–but the Mavs roster is filled with team-first players ready to do what it takes to win. The offense will improve–there’s too much unselfish talent for it not to. And when the playoffs move into defensive lockdown time, this will be a Mavericks team no opponent wants to see. As Dirk Nowitzki said when the trade was made: Rondo’s “at his best in playoffs and big-time games.”