April 22, 2024

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Max Struss' 59-foot buzzer-beater over Luka Doncic lifts Cavaliers ahead of Mavericks

Max Struss' 59-foot buzzer-beater over Luka Doncic lifts Cavaliers ahead of Mavericks

CLEVELAND – Best pass rusher of Evan Mobley's career, worst tackle of Caris LeVert and only the second-best slugger to win a game in Max Strus' nearly 28 years on the planet.

This is what the pandemonium looked like Tuesday night in Cleveland.

Strus launched a 59-footer just before time expired, drained it, and thus lifted his Cavaliers to a thrilling 121-119 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. It's a shot several steps from the half-court line, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, it's the second-longest game-winning shot at the buzzer in NBA history.

“I did,” Strauss said when asked if he knew his shot would be good. “I don't even know what happened after that.”

Well, Max, you ran to your basket in a state of ecstasy and shock. LeVert chased you down and tried to take you down, but video replay shows you took him down as much as he handled you. The Cavs had, sort of, avoided a literal pack of dogs, but most of Strus' teammates were hovering over him, yelling who-knows-what – in complete disbelief at what they had just seen.

“I don't know what I said on the mic (after the game),” said Donovan Mitchell, who was not in the game for Strus's match-winner. “If Bally Sports owns it, please be sure to release it.”

The last 30 seconds of this game were drunk. It started when Mitchell hit a 3 for a 118-115 lead. Kyrie Irving, the former jockey who has The greatest shot in franchise history, buried a short jumper with 23.8 seconds left — which, of course, gave the ball back to the Cavaliers, with the shot clock stopped. Dallas didn't need to foul immediately and opted to apply pressure, nearly tying up Darius Garland for a jump ball on a play in which Cleveland insisted Garland was fouled. The Cavaliers used the final timeout to save the ball, but Mobley got out of it and threw the ball away.

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The Mavericks, as expected, looked for Luka Doncic (game-high 45 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds), but Maxi Kleber's pass was nearly intercepted by Mobley. Dončić corralled it, and instead of shooting it himself, passed to an open PJ Washington for a layup with 2.6 seconds left.

“I was feeling overwhelmed, because I don't expect Max to make a perfect shot,” Mitchell said. “But at the end of the day, that's why you keep playing until the last seconds.”

Yes, about those, last two seconds and change. After a timeout, Struss tossed the ball to Mobley in the frontcourt, who immediately returned it to Struss (and later agreed it was the best, or at least the smartest, pass ever thrown). With his momentum carrying him toward the basket, Strus unclipped one over Dončić's hand and watched it stay on course until it passed through the hoop.

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“Get up,” Strauss said when asked what was going through his mind when Mobley passed him the ball. “I had space, I don't know. I just shot him.”
Strauss also reminded reporters that he's done this before.

“In Division II (college), I hit a three-quarter-court shot to win the game,” he said. Strauss went to Lewis Little School in Illinois, before transferring to DePaul. “I think it was No. 1 on ESPN.”

Far from a fifty-foot prayer, Strus wrestled the Cavaliers from the jaws of a devastating loss. Cleveland led by as many as 15 at halftime, and found itself down by 10 with about four minutes left when the Struss showed up. He answered with four straight 3s, cutting the deficit to one point, and scored 15 of his 21 points in the final frame — all in 3s. Each of the seven field goals Strus made was from behind the arc, and one was also behind the timeline and midfield as well. He was 5 of 5 from 3 in the final 3:42.

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“What he did tonight was absolutely ridiculous, but that's Max,” said a hoarse J.B. Bickerstaff, who needs some halls and herbal tea, for the stats, of the Cavs' upcoming game Wednesday night in Chicago. “Max never quits. We were down there, and he had the same mentality. He wasn't going to quit.”

Mitchell led the Cavaliers with 31 points, and Jarrett Allen had 19 points and nine boards. Cleveland (38-19) continued its lead over the Milwaukee Bucks to occupy second place in the Eastern Conference.

After winning seven straight, the Mavericks (33-25) have lost two straight and will play again Wednesday in Toronto.

“I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever missed on a half-court shot,” Irving said. “Just someone kicks the ball three-quarters down the field and the ball goes all the way into the net, without touching anything. So it is an unfortunate circumstance. “We performed well and gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”

In a match decided by the final shot, all plays count. To that end, Irving committed an unusual turnover that cost the Mavs. With Strus just beginning his 3-point barrage in the fourth quarter (draining four in 66 seconds), Irving was said to be in play when he caught a pass from Tim Hardaway Jr. after Strus' first 3-pointer. to go in and Irving wanted to be the one to throw it, but an official said he was already in play when he took the ball from Hardaway before he crossed the goal line.

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Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said: “We put ourselves in a position to beat one of the best teams in the league, not only in the Eastern Conference, but in the league, and we failed.”

Required reading

(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)