NBA playoffs: Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II reportedly ‘OK’ after taking violent knee to head in Game 3

Dallas Mavericks center Derek Lively II left their 116-107 playoff victory over the Timberwolves after being inadvertently injured in the back of the head by Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.

The incident occurred in the second quarter with Dallas leading 43-33. Lively fell backward toward the court after contesting a missed jump shot by Mike Conley. As he fell to the court, the back of his head slammed into Towns’ right knee as Towns jumped in an attempt to grab the rebound.

Lively’s head jerked forward and he remained on the ground for several moments. He finally managed to get up and leave the field with the help of his teammates. He was clearly dazed and headed straight for the locker room.

THE The Mavericks listed him as questionable at halftime with a sprained neck before being ruled out in the third quarter. He left the arena after the match to have a scan to determine the severity of his neck sprain. according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. He was not listed in the NBA’s concussion protocol Sunday night.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday morning that tests on Lively’s neck came back “OK”, but his availability for Game 4 is unknown.

Along with the immediate concern over his health, the loss of Lively on Sunday and potentially beyond is a major blow to the Mavericks.

Derek Lively II left the first half of Sunday's Mavericks-Timberwolves playoff game after taking a knee to the back of the head.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortés)

Derek Lively II left the first half of Sunday’s Mavericks-Timberwolves playoff game after taking a knee to the back of the head. (AP/Julio Cortés)

The 12th pick in the 2023 draft out of Duke, Lively has been a revelation for the Mavericks as a key contributor in their run to the Western Conference Finals. An All-Rookie team selection, Lively averaged 8.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks coming off the bench in 14 playoff games before Sunday.

His defense and post presence were invaluable as Dallas cruised past the top-seeded Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs. He posted 11 points, 15 rebounds and a +26 in the plus/minus column in the Mavericks’ Game 6 victory over the Thunder in the second round. He has yet to miss a field goal in two-plus games against Minnesota while shooting 13 of 13 from the field.

According to TNT, his +108 for the playoffs is the second-best plus/minus by a rookie since 1997. A 7-1 center, his presence is vital against a Timberwolves team that features three bigs in Towns, Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid.

Dallas entered Game 3 with a 2-0 series lead after winning Games 1 and 2 in Minnesota. The Mavericks, behind Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving’s combined 66 points, cruised to a nine-point victory in Game 3 on Sunday night. That gave them a 3-0 lead in the series and are just one win away from reaching their first NBA Finals since winning the title with Dirk Nowitzki in 2011. The Mavericks will have a chance to win the series at home during the match. 4 Tuesday evening.

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