Home Sports NBA playoffs: Standout Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II leaves Game 3 vs. Timberwolves after violent knee to head

NBA playoffs: Standout Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II leaves Game 3 vs. Timberwolves after violent knee to head

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Dereck 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 Cortez)

Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II left Sunday’s playoff game against the Timberwolves after inadvertently receiving a knee to the back of the head from Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.

The incident took place in the second quarter with Dallas leading, 43-33. Lively fell back onto the court after contesting a missed 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 effort to corral the rebound.

Lively’s head swiveled forward and she remained on the court for several moments. He was finally able to get up and leave the court with the help of his teammates. He was clearly dizzy and headed straight to the locker room.

He Mavericks listed him as questionable at halftime with a sprained neck before ruling him out in the third quarter. In addition to the immediate concern for his health, the loss of Lively on Sunday and potentially beyond is a significant blow to the Mavericks.

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

His defense and post presence have been invaluable as Dallas beat the Los Angeles Clippers and the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the postseason. 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 and has made 13 of 13 field goals.

According to TNT, his +108 for the postseason is the second-best plus/minus of a rookie since 1997. A 7-1 center, his presence is key against a Timberwolves team that features a big three 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 and with a chance to claim a series victory at home.

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