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Mavericks injury updates: Maxi Kleber to return in Game 4 vs. Timberwolves, Dereck Lively II out, per reports

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There’s good news and bad news for the Dallas Mavericks ahead of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, injury-wise. The good news is that big man Maxi Kleber, who has been sidelined for nine games because of a right shoulder injury that he suffered in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers, has been cleared to return, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The bad news is that center Dereck Lively II, who took a knee to the head from Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns in Game 3, will be out of the lineup with a neck sprain, according to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes.

Dallas leads the series 3-0. As of Tuesday morning, the NBA’s official injury report still lists Kleber as questionable and Lively as doubtful.

At full strength, the Mavericks have three reliable center options. Lively and Daniel Gafford are their more traditional big men, who control the paint and win Dallas games with their rebounding, lob-finishing and rim-protection. Kleber, a 35.7% career 3-point shooter, is their curveball. Having him available to help space the floor in small-ball lineups is valuable, especially since he’s a capable perimeter defender. He can also play alongside Lively or Gafford.

Any minutes that Dallas can get out of Kleber in Game 4 would be huge. While Gafford is the starter, he has averaged only 21.3 minutes per game this postseason. The Mavericks have succeeded thanks in large part to their ability to rotate Gafford and Lively in and out so they’re always fresh. Kleber might not be able to take on Lively’s workload, but his presence could allow them to limit Gafford’s without having to call on reserve center Dwight Powell, who logged eight minutes in Game 3.

The NBA Finals begin on June 6. Dallas would surely love to eliminate Minnesota on Tuesday and then use its week off to get Lively and Kleber as healthy as possible.

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