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 to 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 midcourt, 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 past 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.

Truth be told, Strus wasn’t all that impressed by his heave. He made an even longer game-winning shot in college, at Lewis University in Illinois.

“Yeah, at my Division II school I made a three-quarter-court shot to win the game,” he said.

When asked further about how he pulled it off, though, he was modest.

“I don’t know. Donovan [Mitchell] 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.”

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.”

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

“Incredible shot. That was just an incredible shot,” Doncic said. “It was my fault, I should have pressed forward [on Strus]. I thought we played a good game, but that was rough, obviously.”

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.”

Irving concurred.

“That two-minute span was intense for us,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve lost on a half-court shot. You don’t flush it out of your system, you feel it. This one has got to sting a little bit.”

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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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