Mavericks’ Dereck Lively II reacts to career night: I’m just thankful for my teammates

Rookie Dereck Lively II returned from a one-game absence and produced a career performance on Monday to help lead the Dallas Mavericks to a victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Lively recorded 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots in the 127-92 win on the road. He made 11 of his 12 shot attempts from the field and finished a plus-22 in 20 minutes of work off the bench.

The Mavericks improved to 3-1 when Lively has at least 20 points. He scored 16 points alone in the first half, marking his highest-scoring half of the season.

“I just gotta be able to be thankful for my teammates finding me in the position I’m in,” Lively said. “Just finding little holes in the defense and just try to be able to score when I can.”

The 12th pick didn’t play on Saturday in a 142-124 win over the Detroit Pistons for personal reasons. He returned and finished in double figures for just the second time since missing seven games last month due to a nasal fracture

Lively again connected on several passes with Luka Doncic, who finished with 27 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds. He has formed a strong bond with Doncic on the court and has given the All-Star a big target with his size and athleticism.

“I just like to turn the game into a track meet because I can’t out-muscle anybody,” Lively said. “We all know that. I can definitely get around people. I can outrun them and I gotta be able to use my stamina and energy to try to get up and down as many times as I can.”

The 7-footer has emerged as a key player for the Mavericks, averaging 8.9 points, seven rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 assists on 75.1% shooting from the field in 46 games. He ranks third in rebounds and blocks among all first-year players.

Lively and the Mavericks will now begin a three-game stretch against teams currently in the playoff picture: Golden State, Oklahoma City and Denver. Currently in eighth place, the team knows it is a crucial time to maintain its position in the standings.

“We gotta have discipline,” Lively said. “We gotta be able to follow our game plan and we gotta be consistent. If someone hits a crazy 3 or a crazy shot, it isn’t a time where we put our head down. It is a time where we lock in even more so we can take it out, get down the court and get to a bucket.”

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire