When the Oklahoma City Thunder were intentionally fouling him in the tense fourth quarter during Saturday’sLively playoff game at American Airlines Center, Dallas Mavericks backup center Dereck Lively II had one definitive thought in his mind when he was pressed to convert some crucial free throws.

Lively said: “It was like, ‘Alright, you’re going to disrespect me? I’m going to come up and I’m going to knock them down.’ “

And that’s exactly what the very confident 20-year-old Lively did.

After missing three of four free throws when he was intentionally fouled, Lively blew up the Thunder’s hack-a-Lively strategy when he knocked down four consecutive free throws in the frantic final moments. His last two gave the Mavs a 100-95 lead with 3:06 remaining. The Mavs eventually won, 105-101.

Initially, when the Thunder resorted to their intentional-foul strategy, the Mavs’ rookie was running around the court and trying to get away from any OKC player who was attempting to intentionally foul him. But then, guard Kyrie Irving told him to stop running and embrace the moment.

“There’s probably a clip out there of me just running around,” Lively said while smiling. “I was trying to make the lane open for my teammates, and Livelymy teammates were just like, ‘Why the hell are you running? Just stay there and knock them in.’

“Just having my teammates have my back makes you want to just step up and make (the free throws) even more.”

Besides being a key cog in helping the Mavs lead this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series 2-1, Lively had other motives for wanting to knock down the biggest free throws of his brief NBA career.

“I know my mama got me,” he said. “She’s watching me, and I know she’s telling me to make them damn free throws. So, I’ve got to step up and make them.”

Lively’s mom – Kathy Drysdale — passed away on April 12 at the age of 53. So he nailed the free throws, a day before Mother’s Day.

Mavs superstar point guard Luka Dončić was overly impressed with the way Lively stepped up and made 5-of-8 free throws when the game was hanging in the balance.

“I think people forget that he’s a rookie, and to knock down those free throws was amazing to see,” Dončić said. “If they’re trying to (intentionally foul Lively), it’s big for his confidence. Big respect for him in that situation.”

That’s precisely the way forward P.J. Washington saw it.Lively

“He was playing tag for a little bit, and then we told him to just sit there and knock your free throws down,” Washington said. “Credit to him.

“He stepped up and made some big ones late and we needed it.”

For the game, Lively scored 12 points and snatched eight rebounds, and was 8-of-12 from the free throw line.

Other than one time in the first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Lively noted that he’s never been intentionally fouled in this type of situation during his basketball career.

“I feel like when it gets to those points and people get desperate, that’s kind of the last thing to do,” he said. “It’s a sign of respect.

“They think that I can’t make free throws, so I’m just going to step up and show them what I’ve been working on, showing them the amount of time I’ve put in and the effort that I’ve put in.”

The first time the Thunder intentionally fouled Lively, he converted one-of-two free throws to pad the Mavs’ lead to 95-90 with 5:55 remaining in the Livelygame. The next time Lively was intentionally fouled, he missed both free throws, leaving the score at 95-90 Mavs with 5:38 to go.

After that, Lively buried a pair to put Dallas up, 98-92, after he was fouled on purpose with 3:27 left. Then, he knocked down two more free throws with 3:06 remaining when he was intentionally fouled, giving the Mavs a 100-95 edge.

“I feel like he really handled it the right way,” Mavs starting center Daniel Gafford said. “It was funny, because he was basically playing cat and mouse running around and having (OKC center) Chet (Holmgren) chase him.

“Kai had told him to really just embrace it and knock the free throws down. Be comfortable, be confident, and if they do that just step up there with confidence and knock it down.”

Lively anticipates the Thunder will resort to hack-a-Lively a few more times in the series, and he’s preparing himself for the challenge.

“They’re probably going to do that whenever there’s a close game and they think they can get the ball back and they’re going to foul me,” he said. “But I’ve got to be able to step up and knock them down. It has never happened until recently,”

WALLACE AT HOME: The Thunder are impressed with what they’ve gotten this season from guard Cason Wallace.Lively

A product of Richarson High School, Wallace was actually taken by the Mavs with the 10th overall pick of last summer’s draft. The Mavs then traded his draft rights and Davis Bertans to OKC for Dereck Lively II, who the Thunder drafted 12th overall.

“He’s excited to play here, and you can tell by the look on his face, which is the exact same look he has in every single situation,” Daigneault said of Wallace. “He’s doing great.

“We have a lot of trust in him. He’s had a big year.”

In joining rookie Chet Holmgren as the only Thunder players to play all 82 games this season, Wallace averaged 6.8 points in 20.6 minutes while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three-point range. He also was a stalwart on the defensive end of the floor.

“He’s got an unbelievable temperament,” Daigneault said. “He’s been like that from the minute we met him.

“When you meet his folks you’ll understand where that comes from. They’re about as pure of people as you’re going to get. They’re just about as down to earth as you can ever imagine, and he’s a representation of that.”

BRIEFLY: OKC has this thing going where they get together and start barking after a game. It’s something that has caught on with their Gaffordfans. “One thing I think is a blind spot for people that we feel as we move with the team through the season is 82 games is a lot of games, it’s a lot of travel, it’s a very mundane existence,” Thunder coach Mark Daignault said. “It’s like you’re just moving from the next airport to the next ballroom to the next game to the next hotel to the next bus. You want people around — not just players — that are just energy-giving people. You don’t want boring people around, because the existence is boring enough. And our players are not boring. They’re great guys and they enjoy each other. They enjoy success, and we want that. It breeds energy into an otherwise long season, and when it’s time to line up, they line up. I would have an issue with it if it was bleeding into our ability to execute, but it doesn’t. They compartmentalize it.” . . . Mavs center Daniel Gafford left Saturday’s game late in the second quarter while suffering with some pain in his left shoulder. Gafford said a collision with OKC guard Josh Giddy caused the pain. “Giddy was trying to get out to the corner because we had somebody wide-open in the corner,” Gafford said. “We just ran straight into each other.” Gafford returned and started the second half and wound up with eight points, five rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes . . . Mavs forward P.J. Washington scored 27 points on Saturday, one game after scoring 29 points on Thursday. OKC coach Mark Daignault said his team had problems trying to contain Washington when he played for Charlotte. “When he was in Charlotte, it felt like every shot went in when he was in Charlotte,” Daignault said. “We know he’s a really good player. We have a lot of respect for him.” Daignault then explained why it appears as though Washington has been wide open on a bunch of three-point attempts. “If you have 10 priorities against a team, then that’s when you’re really hemorrhaged,” he said. “So, you’ve got determine where your priorities are. We think we’ve done that.”

X: @DwainPrice

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