Thursday, April 18, 2024

WATCH: Cavs’ Max Strus, Evan Mobley did everything right on 59-foot buzzer-beater to sink Mavericks

Max Strus had himself a fourth quarter on Tuesday, hitting five 3-pointers, tying his career high for a single quarter, over the final three minutes and change of the fourth quarter — with the final one being a buzzer-beating bomb from beyond half court that drew nothing but net as the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the Dallas Mavericks, 121-119. 

What’s more gut-wrenching for the Mavericks is they had just connected on what appeared to be their own game-winner. In a chaotic sequence, Luka Doncic took a tipped inbounds pass that fortuitously opened the floor for him to drive unimpeded into the paint as two Cavaliers defenders went for the loose ball and played themselves out of position. 

Doncic drew Jarrett Allen up as he breached the paint, then found new Dallas addition P.J. Washington on a dump-off pass along the baseline for a layup and one-point lead with 2.6 seconds remaining. 

The Cavs were out of timeouts. All they could do was inbound the ball and throw up a prayer. Which Strus did. And somehow, it was answered. 

The shot goes down as a 59-footer (yeah, I’m going to round up) — the second-longest game-winner of the 3-point era, which dates back to the 1979-80 season.  

Indeed, this was a prayer of a shot. But the Cavs did do the best they could with the time they had. First off, Strus knew he didn’t have any timeouts. That seems like an obvious thing, but in the heat of the moment, after a chaotic sequence, it would be easy to lose your head for a split second and signal for a timeout in effect ending the game with a technical foul. Strus didn’t do that. He was 1-for-1 on good decisions. 

Second, Strus didn’t try for a full-court pass. The chances of a Hail Mary like that landing cleanly enough for someone to catch and shoot in any sort of realistic manner in under three seconds are beyond slim. Good decision number two. 

Instead, Strus inbounded quickly to Mobley, and then, instead of standing around, he followed his pass at a full sprint to cut down the distance of the heave. That’s not a good decision. It’s a great one. If he passes it to Mobley and doesn’t follow it, Mobley would’ve had no choice but to turn and heave himself. 

That’s now three good decisions — all of which could’ve been erased had Mobley panicked and taken the shot himself anyway. But he didn’t do that. Recognizing Strus’ intentions and understanding his teammate is a better bet from long distance, Mobley, in what qualifies as the fourth good decision of this sequence, stayed poised and guided a soft, chest-high pass back to Strus that didn’t interrupt his stride. 

From there, Strus made a fifth good decision by taking one forward dribble. Not zero, and not two. One. He cut down the distance of the shot as much as he could while keeping the clock running in his head. He had enough momentum — because, again, he sprinted after his pass — to shoot a normal-form shot from almost 60 feet. 

Yes, this is is still an unlikely shot to make. But Strus, who finished with 21 points, and Mobley executed in a manner that at least optimized their chances of success. And it worked — erasing a combined 75-point performance from Doncic (45) and Kyrie Irving (30) and what appeared to be a sure win for the Mavericks. 

Instead, it’s the Cavs who win for the 20th time in their last 24 games. 

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