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Max Strus’ 59-footer lifts Cavaliers over Mavericks

CLEVELAND — Max Strus drilled a 59-footer as time expired, his fifth made 3-pointer in the final four minutes, to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a wild 121-119 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

After the Mavericks took the lead on P.J. Washington‘s dunk with 2.9 seconds left, the Cavaliers quickly inbounded the ball Evan Mobley, who passed back to Strus — who made four 3s in a span of 67 seconds down the stretch to keep Cleveland close.

Strus then took a dribble before launching his shot from well beyond mid-court, officially listed at 59 feet. As it swished through the net, Strus was tackled to the floor by teammates as the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse crowd erupted.

“At the end of the day, we have a guy like Max Strus,” Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen said. “Anything is possible.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Strus is the fourth player in the last 25 seasons to make five 3s in the final four minutes of game.

“He was the guy,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Strus. “That’s one of the things, that we’re fortunate with this group, is on any given night, we’ve got a guy who can step up and make huge plays.”

The memorable shot was the second-longest game-winning buzzer-beater in the 3-point era, according to Basketball Reference. Only Devonte’ Graham has hit a longer one — 61 feet — in that span in the New Orleans Pelicans‘ victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 15, 2021.

“I don’t know. Donovan was out of the game, so somebody else had to step up,” Strus said, laughing, in his on-court, postgame interview on Bally Sports. “I got lucky.”

Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points, Strus added 21 and Allen 19 for the Cavaliers, who improved to 12-3 since Jan 26.

“I didn’t feel like it was going to be that far off. I had a feeling it was going to be close,” Mitchell said in describing Strus’ winner. “Just to see it go through, especially with what he did for us in the fourth … it had to be him. You dream of a shot like that.”

Luka Doncic had 45 points and 14 assists a day before turning 25 for the Mavericks. Kyrie Irving added 30 for Dallas, which lost for just the second time in 10 games.

Doncic added nine rebounds, finishing one shy of his 11th triple-double.

With Doncic making a 3-pointer, Dallas reeled off 10 straight points to take a 108-98 lead with 4:38 left.

“We should’ve closed that game out in a better way,” Washington said. “We felt like we should have won that game. To lose like that, it definitely hurts.”

The Mavericks were still up by double digits when Strus got hot, making four 3-pointers in just over a minute to pull the Cavs within 113-112.

“Max never quits,” Bickerstaff said. “He just kept making play after play after play on both ends.”

Doncic’s appearance in Cleveland always brings out dozens of fans from the city’s Slovenian community. Following his early pregame warmup, Doncic went into the stands to sign autographs and pose for photos.

After a sluggish start offensively, the Cavaliers made 7 of 9 3-pointers to begin the second quarter while opening a 56-41 lead.

But following a Dallas timeout, Doncic took over. The All-Star made three 3s in a span of 1:26, dropped two free throws and then hit another step-back 3 to score 14 points in the final 2:57 to pull the Mavs within 60-56 at halftime.

This was Irving’s first visit since being traded to Dallas from Brooklyn, and he got a warm ovation in player introductions and again when the Cavs played a video tribute for him during a first-quarter timeout.

Irving waved to the crowd and formed the shape of heart with his hands to show thanks.

The mercurial guard has a complicated relationship with Cleveland fans. Some remain faithful and will never forget his contributions to the Cavs’ title run in 2016 while others feel bitterness toward Irving after he demanded to be traded.

He’s been with Dallas nearly a year, and Mavericks coach Jason Kidd raved about how Irving has blended in after a bumpy exit from the Nets.

“He’s at peace,” Kidd said. “He’s enjoying Dallas, the city. He’s enjoying his teammates and he’s playing at a high level.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared on ESPN

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