Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II had to leave their 116-107 playoff victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves after an inadvertent knee to the back of his head from Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.

The incident occurred in the second quarter when Dallas was leading 43-33. Lively fell backward toward the court after contesting a missed jump shot by Mike Conley. As he descended, the back of his head collided with Towns’ right knee, who was jumping to grab the rebound.

Lively’s head snapped forward, and he lay on the court for several moments. Eventually, he managed to stand up and was escorted off the court by his teammates. He appeared woozy and headed straight for the locker room.

At halftime, the Mavericks listed him as questionable with a neck sprain and later ruled him out in the third quarter. According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Lively left the arena after the game to get a scan to determine the severity of his neck sprain. He was not in the NBA’s concussion protocol as of Sunday night.

The loss of Lively is a significant concern for the Mavericks, both immediately and potentially longer-term.

Selected 12th overall in the 2023 draft out of Duke, Lively has been a crucial player for the Mavericks in their journey to the Western Conference finals. As an All-Rookie team selection, Lively averaged 8.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 blocks off the bench in 14 playoff games before Sunday’s game.

His defense and presence in the post have been invaluable as Dallas advanced past the Los Angeles Clippers and top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the postseason. He posted 11 points, 15 rebounds, and a +26 plus/minus in the Mavericks’ closeout Game 6 win over the Thunder in the second round. In the series against Minnesota, he had yet to miss a field goal, shooting 13 of 13 from the field.

According to TNT, his +108 plus/minus for the postseason is the second-best by a rookie since 1997. A 7-1 center, Lively’s presence is crucial against a Timberwolves team featuring bigs like 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, led by 66 combined points from Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving, secured a nine-point win in Game 3 on Sunday night. This victory gave them a 3-0 series lead, bringing them just one win away from reaching their first NBA Finals since their 2011 championship with Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks will have a chance to clinch the series at home in Game 4 on Tuesday night.



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