NBA playoffs: Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II reportedly 'OK' after taking violent knee to head in Game 3

Despite losing Dereck Lively, the Mavericks beat the Timberwolves 116-107 in Game 3 on Sunday night

Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II left their 116-107 playoff win over the Timberwolves after taking an inadvertent knee to the back of his head from Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.

The incident took place in the second quarter with Dallas leading, 43-33. Lively fell backward toward the court after contesting a missed jump 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 snapped forward, and he remained down on the court for several moments. He was eventually able to stand up and leave the court with the help of teammates. He was clearly woozy and headed straight for the locker room.

The Mavericks listed him as questionable at halftime with a neck sprain before ruling him out in the third quarter. He left the arena after the game to get a scan to determine the severity of his neck sprain, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon. He was not in the NBA's concussion protocol as of Sunday night.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday morning that tests on Lively's neck came back "OK," but the Mavericks listed him as "doubtful" for Game 4.

Alongside the immediate concern about his health, the loss of Lively on Sunday and potentially beyond is a significant blow for the Mavericks.

Dereck Lively II left the first half of Sunday's playoff Mavericks-Timberwolves playoff game after taking a knee to the back of his head. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Dereck Lively II left the first half of Sunday's Mavericks-Timberwolves playoff game after taking a knee to the back of his head. (AP/Julio Cortez)

The 12th pick of the 2023 draft out of Duke, Lively's been a revelation for the Mavericks as a key contributor in their run to the Western Conference finals. 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.

His defense and presence in the post have been invaluable as Dallas has advanced past the Los Angeles Clippers and 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' closeout Game 6 win over the Thunder in the second round. He's yet to miss a field goal in two-plus games against Minnesota while shooting 13 of 13 from the field.

Per TNT, his +108 for the postseason is the second-best plus/minus by a rookie since 1997. A 7-1 center, his presence is key against a Timberwolves team that features three bigs 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. The Mavericks, behind 66 combined points from Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving, pushed ahead to a nine-point win in Game 3 on Sunday night. That gave them a 3-0 series lead and now has them just a single win away from reaching their first NBA Finals since they won the title with Dirk Nowitzki in 2011. The Mavericks will have a chance to clinch the series win at home in Game 4 on Tuesday night.