Dallas Mavericks Rookie Made NBA Finals History in Game 3 Against Boston Celtics

The young rookie is quickly establishing himself as a force on the interior
Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) dunks against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the third quarter in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) dunks against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the third quarter in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday night's Game 3 to the Boston Celtics was disheartening in many ways. One of the few positives was the performance of rookie Dereck Lively II who gave the Mavs energy and hustle when they needed it. In Game 3, he also set an NBA record.

With his 11 points and 13 rebounds, Lively became the youngest player to have 10 rebounds in a Finals game, at 20 years and 122 days old, per StatMuse. Boston's absence of Kristaps Porzingis allowed the young man out of Duke to have a stellar game on the interior.

READ MORE: Luka Doncic Fouls Out as Mavericks Drop Game 3 Against Celtics, Face 3-0 Series Hole in NBA Finals

Lively had struggled early on in this series with missed weakside help and defending in space, but he's gotten better as the series has progressed. That's been a theme of the season. When the Mavericks traded down in the 2023 NBA Draft to acquire him, they thought he'd have to spend time in the G-League to develop, but he became instrumental for the Mavs as a lob-threat on offense and an elite rim protector on defense.

It's strange to think this is likely the worst Lively will ever be in his career. He's also an integral part of closing lineups for Dallas with his ability to defend on the perimeter on switches, chase rebounds, and bring the energy when needed most. Even if the Mavericks don't have an improbable comeback in this series, they can move forward with Lively's exponential growth as a major building block.

The midseason trade for Daniel Gafford gave Dallas a 1-2 punch at the center position with equal skillsets, but it's not a stretch to say Lively has been the better big for the Mavs throughout the postseason.

READ MORE: Celtics Face 'Real Doubt' Kristaps Porzingis Returns Against Mavericks During NBA Finals

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Austin Veazey

AUSTIN VEAZEY

Austin Veazey joined NoleGameday as the Lead Basketball Writer in 2019, while contributing as a football writer, and started as editor for MavericksGameday in 2024. Veazey was a Florida State Men’s Basketball Manager from 2016-2019. Follow Austin on Twitter at @EasyVeazeyNG