The Dallas Mavericks have been one of the best teams in the NBA so far this season. They own the second-best record in the Western Conference and have been shooting 39.3 percent from the 3-point line.
They are also averaging 120.1 points per game, the fourth-highest in the league.
However, reality hit on Wednesday night when they suffered their first home loss of the season.
Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II has turned into indispensable piece
The Mavericks fell to the Toronto Raptors 127-116, as they were outrebounded 50-38. Dallas also allowed 72 points in the paint.
So what seemed to be the problem?
Could it be that Dallas just had an off night?
Or what about the absence of Dereck Lively II?
How about the latter question.
Coach Kidd spoke about the absence of Lively II after the Toronto game. He elaborated on the team's struggles inside the paint.
"We missed him a lot. There was no one in the paint tonight. That shows how important he is to our team. "- Jason Kidd
The Mavs rookie was the topic of discussion Wednesday as Dallas struggled to contain the Raptors inside. Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes combined for 26 rebounds.
Dallas had one player grab seven or more rebounds (Luka Doncic) and they grabbed six offensive rebounds as a team.
These awful rebound numbers would have been better with Lively II on the floor. The Mavs rookie has averaged 7.7 rebounds per game. Lively II had his best game against the Charlotte Hornets last week when he pulled in 14 rebounds.
Kyrie Irving spoke on Lively II's absence after the loss to Toronto. Irving complimented Lively II's ability to cover up the team's mistakes and willingness to create second-chance opportunities.
The problem is Dallas has struggled inside the paint. Against the Magic on Monday, the Mavs allowed 52 points inside. The game prior, the team allowed the Charlotte Hornets to outscore them by 22 points inside the paint.
This is where Lively II comes into play. Whenever the rookie was on the court, the team had given up 51.1 points in the paint per 100 possessions. However, when he was off the court, Dallas allowed 59.3 opponent points in the paint per 100 possessions.
All-Star Luka Doncic understands the type of impact Lively II can have for Dallas. He believes the rookie's future is bright.
Dallas hopes to have Lively II back Friday, as the team plays host to the LA Clippers. Right now, the Mavs center is listed as questionable with a non-COVID illness.
For all the latest on Dereck Lively II, Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks this season, stay tuned.