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Dereck Lively II had a massive Mavericks debut in win over Spurs

The season-opening win in San Antonio may have been the best game Lively has ever played

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs
Dereck Lively II of the Dallas Mavericks shoots the ball during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on October 25, 2023 at the Frost Bank Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks’ starting lineup was an eyebrow-raising conversation point the millisecond it was announced on social media before Dallas’ season opener against the hated San Antonio Spurs. One of the leading head-scratchers was, after a preseason of purposefully getting the rookie Dereck Lively II involved in the rotation, the big man out of Duke was notably absent from Mavericks’ coach Jason Kidd’s first five.

The fanbase was treated to a first half in which the Mavericks fought uphill against both the Spurs’ tenacity and Dallas’ own poor defense. Going into the locker room down just 68-64 at the half would be a sign of better things to come after the Mavs defense allowed 43 points in the first quarter.

Even though he didn’t start, Lively notched 12 first-half minutes off the bench. They were apparently more than enough to get his NBA legs underneath him.

When he was inserted into the lineup to start the third quarter, Lively flipped a switch and scored 10 of his 16 points on lob after putback dunk after lob. He finished the night with 16 points and 10 rebounds on 7-of-8 shooting while being a plus-20 in 30 minutes.

His shot chart at the end of the game was a thing of beauty.

Lively went 7-of-8 from the field
Dereck Lively II’s shot chart from his NBA debut, a 126-119 win at the San Antonio Spurs.
Courtesy Dallas Mavericks

“Amazing. He played amazing,” Mavericks guard Luka Dončić said of Lively’s performance. “I remember my first game, I was nervous. He didn’t look like he was nervous. He played f—ing amazing.”

That’s right. Luka with the inadvertent f-bomb in the postgame interview on ESPN in the first game of the season. We are so back.

It was a debut for Lively that was even stronger than the stat line indicates. It might have been the best basketball game this kid (keep reminding yourself — he’s still 19) has ever played.

Lively never scored 16 points against college competition in his one year at Duke. His season-high scoring output last year in the ACC was 13 points, twice: at home against Virginia Tech and in the conference tournament against Pittsburgh. He also never notched a double-double in his lone season in the college game.

Lively becomes one of just four Mavericks rookies in team history to record a double-double in his NBA debut, according to play-by-play man Mark Followill. Dennis Smith Jr had 16 points and 10 assists in his NBA debut in 2017, Mark Aguirre had 19 points and 11 rebounds in his debut in 1981, and wouldn’t you know it? Kidd, who has come full circle into the Mavs’ coach’s seat, had 10 points and 11 assists in his NBA debut in 1994.

Lively’s tenth board came with just under a minute to play, an offensive board on a flailing, off-balance Kyrie Irving 3-point attempt with Wemby’s hand in his face. One more bucket would ice it. Lively tracked down the ball in traffic and found Dončić, who immediately tossed home a deep, contested 3-ball of his own.

Bang biscuit. 126-119. And Lively’s fingerprints were all over this one.

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