Mavericks-Thunder Preview

The Associated Press

Even though Russell Westbrook may have to shed some rust after a long layoff, the Oklahoma City Thunder know they're much better off just having their star point guard in the lineup.

Oklahoma City looks to get into more of a groove Wednesday night as it seeks an 11th straight victory over the visiting Dallas Mavericks.

The Thunder (2-1) tied for second in the league with a 48.1 field-goal percentage last season, but they shot just 37.8 percent while splitting their first two contests as Westbrook sat out.

Westbrook, though, returned weeks ahead of schedule from a lateral meniscus tear suffered in the second game of last season's playoffs and scored 21 points while dishing out seven assists to help Oklahoma City earn a 103-96 win over Phoenix on Sunday.

Westbrook shot only 5 of 16 from the field and the Thunder finished 2 of 18 from 3-point range, but he knows everything won't fall into place immediately.

''I just missed some easy ones, but that will come,'' Westbrook said. ''I'm able to do what I want. I could be better but that's all right. That's expected. I'm not expected to come back and be bionic man. I'm just going to work my way through it.''

Most everyone struggled with their shot except Kevin Durant, who had 33 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 10 of 19 from the field.

''Obviously, we've got to shoot the ball much better,'' coach Scott Brooks said. "They're getting good looks. They're going to fall.''

Brooks, though, knows his team is in better hands with Westbrook running the show.

''There are two things that he does at a high level,'' Brooks said. ''He's a winner. It's not always going to be perfect, but he plays with everything he has every single night. The second thing is leadership. It's taken him some time to get that. Now he is our leader.''

Westbrook has averaged 25.2 points during the Thunder's winning streak against Dallas, which includes a sweep in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

Durant averaged 35.5 points, including a career-high 52 on Jan. 18, last season against the Mavericks, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 123-104 on Tuesday for their second straight win.

Dallas led by as many as 30 before resting most of their starters in the fourth. Monta Ellis led seven players in double figures with 30 points and added nine assists while shooting 11 of 14 from the field.

The Mavericks shot 52.1 percent overall and hit 13 of 27 from 3-point range.

''Monta Ellis was fantastic (in) all aspects of the game,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. ''He defended, he made plays at the rim, he was under control, he hit midrange shots, he hit guys cutting to the basket.''

It marked the second time in his four-game Dallas tenure that Ellis has finished with at least 30 points and eight assists.

''The lane was wide open, so I just attacked, and when they came over, I passed the ball and that's what we wanted,'' Ellis said. ''Me being aggressive opened everything else up.'"

Ellis, though, shot only 21.9 percent while averaging 6.7 points in his last three games for Milwaukee against Oklahoma City, which has won six straight home meetings with Dallas.

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