2024 Playoffs: West Finals | Timberwolves (3) vs. Mavericks (5)

Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II misses Game 4; Maxi Kleber returns

The 20-year-old center was out after a neck injury in Game 3, while Kleber returned from a separated right shoulder injury.

Maxi Kleber scored two points in 13 minutes of Dallas’ Game 4 loss to the Wolves.

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DALLAS (AP) — Mavericks center Dereck Lively II was out of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a sprained neck, and Dallas missed a chance to sweep Minnesota, losing 105-100 on Tuesday night.

The Mavs tried to make up for Lively’s absence with the return of Maxi Kleber, who had been out with a separated right shoulder since he took a hard fall in the deciding Game 6 of the first-round series against the LA Clippers on May 3.

Kleber, who was wearing a protective sleeve on the shoulder, scored two points in 13 minutes.

“Maxi was really good,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He hasn’t played in a while, but I thought he was a plus for us and that will only help us as we go forward as we get healthy.”

Before the game, Kidd said Lively’s condition had improved but he was still sore. The 20-year-old rookie was on the sideline in street clothes. He had been listed as doubtful. Game 5 is Thursday night in Minnesota (8:30 ET, TNT).

Lively was injured in the second quarter of Dallas’ 116-107 Game 3 victory. He avoided the concussion protocol after holding his head while staying down on the court for several minutes.

The first-round draft pick out of Duke has been a big boost inside for the Mavericks, forming a tandem with Daniel Gafford that outplayed Minnesota’s big front line of the 7-foot-1 Towns and 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert while Dallas took a 3-0 lead in the series.

“He’s a big piece to our defense and offense, so we miss him a lot,” star guard Luka Doncic said.

The Mavs tried seldom-used Dwight Powell as the first substitute for Gafford, the starter. But Powell was pulled after just three minutes and didn’t return.

Kleber isn’t quite the rim protector or pick-and-roll player that Lively and Gafford are, but offers a solid inside presence. On offense, the Mavs mostly count on Kleber being a 3-point threat.

The 32-year-old German was 10-for-18 from deep against the Clippers and is a 40% 3-point shooter in 37 career playoff games. Kleber made a layup in the second quarter but was short on both 3-point attempts.

In his first game this postseason without Lively, Gafford made all six of his shots for 12 points with eight rebounds.

“Dereck has been great,” Gafford said. “Last couple of games I haven’t been really ready to play, I feel like. I’m letting the team down in a lot of areas. He really helps me motivate myself, because as hard as he’s working, I want to be able to do the same thing. So, I got to be better for him.”