June 25, 2024

Dereck Lively II Brings Mavs Major Boost During Return from Injury vs. Pelicans

Mavs rookie Dereck Lively II made his presence felt in his return to the team’s lineup against the Pelicans after missing five games due to an ankle injury.

DALLAS — Dereck Lively II returned to the Dallas Mavericks lineup on Monday after a five-game absence caused by a left ankle sprain. He provided six points, 12 rebounds, and one assist in 26 minutes, helping the Mavs to achieve a 125-120 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. The team is now 20-10 in games he plays while being 4-7 when he’s sidelined.

“It feels great. It was terrible to sit on the sideline throughout the injury,” Lively said. “Just working it [his ankle] back and working my body back … It feels good to be out there with my family. It just feels great to be back out there building that chemistry again.”

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Kyrie Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for a dominant scoring night with 83 points; Irving had 42, while Hardaway scored 41. It was just the second occurrence in franchise history when two players scored 40 or more in the same game, with Irving and Luka Doncic accomplishing the feat last season. Lively was glad to just keep feeding the hot hand and focus on doing the dirty work.

“Man … Give them the ball and find the hot hand,” Lively said. “Having players like that on the floor makes it that much easier to play offense, and that much better whenever we get the transition going or anything like that. You just got to find the open man. Just find the hot hand.”

Despite providing a clear interior presence in his first game back, Lively admitted he still wasn’t at his “peak” physically. He made clear that as long as he’s on the floor, he’s going to make his presence felt as the rim protector in the backline of the defense.

“I feel good. I’m not at my peak movement. I can definitely say that I’m definitely not going to be a hazard out there. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m going to be able to back everybody up and move my feet, talk [on defense], and cover the rim.”

The Mavs received a substantial boost from Lively, particularly on the offensive boards, accounting for seven of his 12 total rebounds. In his first game back in the lineup from injury, he tied his career-high in offensive rebounds. Dallas went from being at a double-figure disadvantage in second-chance scoring against the Pelicans on Saturday to holding an edge of that level with Lively back.

Phenomenal' rookie Dereck Lively II, Mavericks get early litmus test vs.  Jokic, Nuggets

“That’s my job, do the dirty work and clean it up,” Lively said. “I know my team missed me, so my first game back was definitely a star on my head – bring second-chance opportunities or just try to find the open shot. I felt like we did a great job of moving the ball around and did a great job of bringing physicality and bringing energy.”

The impact Lively had on the Mavs’ rebounding on offense and defense was highlighted by Mavs coach Jason Kidd, particularly by providing extra scoring chances in pivotal late-game moments. They went from trailing 111-106 with 5:05 left in regulation to overtaking a 112-111 lead because Lively grabbed an offensive rebound that led to a made 3-pointer multiple trips down the floor, including a sequence when he grabbed multiple on one possession before Hardaway hit the initial 3-pointer of this sequence down the stretch.

“We didn’t run him into the ground this afternoon. But his offensive rebounds — they gave us second opportunities — and then his defensive rebounds were huge for us, which we missed in that first game,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought late in the game, he came up with some great opportunities for us to get second or third opportunities at the basket, which we needed. Just his presence on the floor — the guys trust him. For his first game back for a while, I thought he did great. We missed him, and we’re happy that he’s back.”

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