Max Struss' 59-footer lifts Cavaliers over Mavericks

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

After the Mavericks took the lead on PJ Washington's dunk with 2.9 seconds left, the Cavaliers quickly inbounded the ball to Evan Mobley, who turned to Struss — making four 3s in 67 seconds.

Struss took a triple before launching his shot from beyond the midway point, officially listed at 59 feet. As it rolled into the net, Struss was tackled to the ground by teammates as the Rockets-owned Fieldhouse crowd erupted.

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

According to ESPN Stats and Information Research, Strus is just the fourth player in the last 25 seasons to make five 3s in the final four minutes.

“He's the guy,” Cleveland coach JP Bickerstaff said of Struss. “It's just that we're lucky on this team, we've got a guy who can step up and make big plays on any given night.”

According to Basketball Reference, the most memorable shot is the second-longest game-winning buzzer-beater in the 3-point era. Only Devontae Graham has hit 61 feet in the New Orleans Pelicans' win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 15, 2021.

“I don't know. Donovan was out of the game, so somebody else had to step up,” Struss said with a laugh in a postgame interview at his stadium, Poly Sports. “I got lucky.”

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

“I didn't feel like it was going to be that far. I had a feeling it was going to be close,” Mitchell said when describing the Struss winner. “What he did for us in the fourth, to see it go through, 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 the second time in 10 games.

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

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

“We should have finished that game in a better way,” Washington said. “We felt we should have won that game, and to lose like that, it definitely hurts.”

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

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

Doncic's appearance in Cleveland always draws dozens of fans from the city's Slovenian community. Following his initial pregame warmup, Doncic made his way to the arena to sign autographs and pose for photos.

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

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

It was Irving's first visit since being traded to Dallas from Brooklyn, and he received a warm welcome at player introductions when the Cavs played a video tribute to him during a first-quarter timeout.

Irving waved to the crowd and made a heart shape with his hands to express his gratitude.

The mercurial guard has a complicated relationship with Cleveland fans. Some remain loyal and will never forget his contribution to the Cavs' title in 2016, while others feel bitter towards Irving after demanding to be traded.

He stayed with Dallas for nearly a year, and Mavericks coach Jason Kidd raved about how Irving fit in after a bumpy exit from the Nets.

“He's relieved,” Kidd said. “He enjoys the city of Dallas. He enjoys his teammates and he plays at a high level.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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