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Mavericks' center Dereck Lively out for Game 4 with neck sprain - NBC Sports

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NBA: Playoffs-Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks

May 26, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) reacts after an injury in the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves during game three of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mavericks center Dereck Lively II is officially out for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday with a neck sprain.

However, another Dallas center, Maxi Kleber, is closer to a return after being out since May 7 with a shoulder injury and is officially questionable for Game 4.

Lively had to leave Game 3 in the third quarter after incidentally being kneed in the head by Karl-Anthony Towns. He left the game but reports say he has not been put in concussion protocol, that the injuries are all about his neck.

Dereck Lively takes a hit to the head and has left to the locker roomWishing him well 🙏 pic.twitter.com/s7K4VGuY2B

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 27, 2024

Lively averaged 9.7 points a game — on perfect 13-of-13 shooting — plus 7.7 rebounds a game in the three games against the Timberwolves, but the numbers undersell his importance. Dallas is +22 in Lively’s minutes through three games and -9 in the minutes he is off the court. He has been a defensive force protecting the rim — in rotation with Daniel Gafford — and his ability to finish alley-oops around the rim has made him a favorite target of Luka Doncic this series.

Playing without Lively will put a lot more on Gafford’s plate, but it would help if Kleber returns. He went through a workout on the court on the off day in the series Monday. He has been out since May 7 with an AC joint separation, but if he can return the threat of his 3-point shot — 34.8% from beyond the arc this season hisplus is rebounding and defense would be a boost. If he cannot go, expect Jason Kidd to go with a small-ball lineup with P.J. Washington at the five when Gafford is on the bench.

Dallas is up 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals and will look to close out the series on Tuesday.

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