Mavericks Dereck Lively upgraded to questionable for Game 5 with neck sprain

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves

In the three games he played against Minnesota, the Dallas Mavericks are +22 when Dereck Lively is on the court. In the one game he missed, Dallas lost.

It’s not that simple, but it also paints a picture of how important he has been to the Mavericks this series — it was obvious during Game 4 how much Lively was missed.

Lively has been upgraded to questionable for Game 5 on Thursday night.

That is no guarantee he will play — Lively was questionable for a time before Game 4 but was ruled out early. This seems more optimistic.

Lively was injured in Game 3 when Karl-Anthony Towns unintentionally kneed him in the back of the head as Lively was going to the ground. He stayed on the ground for a few minutes, then went straight to the locker room, not to return with a neck sprain.

Lively comes off the bench and his athletic rim protection has been a crucial part of how Dallas has kept Anthony Edwards out of the paint, plus on the other end he has been a high-flying finisher of Luka Doncic’s lobs. Without him in Game 4, Jason Kidd briefly tried Dwight Powell but that didn’t work. Maxi Kleber returned from weeks off following a shoulder dislocation and looked hesitant to shoot, but also he does not provide the same kind of rim protection Lively does.

“Yeah, he’s a big piece to our defense and offense,” Doncic said after Game 4. “So we miss him a lot.”

They may not have to miss him on Thursday night.

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