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Horry Scale: Max Strus' game-winner sinks the Mavs from 59 feet

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Max Strus hits an amazing 59-foot buzzer-beater to get the Cavs past the Mavs, 121-119.

A reminder on The Horry Scale: It breaks down a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety night in November?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.


Of the 24 lead changes in Tuesday’s Mavericks-Cavaliers matchup, the whole result hinged on the final two.

Less than three seconds apart, the swings first crushed the home fans, and then reminded them why hope remains a virtue.

The Mavericks took a one-point lead with 2.6 seconds to play, and then Max Strus found his mark, nailing a must-see 59-foot 3-pointer to give the Cavs a two-point win as time expired.

A 121-119 victory in the books, and the Cleveland fans go home happy.

“Man, just to see it go through, especially what he did for us in the fourth, it had to be him, too,” said Donovan Mitchell. “You dream of a shot like that. So for him to get that after what he did for us, the whole fourth quarter, man.”


GAME SITUATION: The Mavericks took a 10-point lead into the final four minutes, seemingly in control on the back of Kyrie Irving’s finger roll. And then Strus happened: a 3-pointer; then another; another; and yet one more for good measure, all part of his 15-point fourth quarter. That 12-point flurry – only interrupted by an Irving 3 – cut the lead to just one in 1 minute, 7 seconds of game action. Back-and-forth from there, Dallas took its final lead at 118-117 as Luka Doncic found PJ Washington for a backdoor layup. One inbound later, the winner was on its way.

“The last five felt pretty good,” Strus said. “I felt a rhythm and it’s fun when you do that. Every time I shot it, I felt like it was going in, and it was. Same with the last one.”

DIFFICULTY: After Washington’s make, the Cavs faced 94 feet of hardwood, no timeout left to gather for the final possession. Strus readied for the inbounds, checking in to Evan Mobley and sprinting up the right side. With all options covered and Luka Doncic holding his position left of the center court logo, Strus lined it up and swished it clean: 59 feet, on the fly. Second-longest winner in regular-season history.

1conic. #LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/Mm73KqZ2Gl

— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 28, 2024

CELEBRATION: Strus, leaning into the shot, carried forward and watched the shot through, braking as it dropped. The crowd roared, and he was already sprinting toward the opposite baseline, where his teammates converged upon him, a ground-bound dogpile the Browns would’ve been proud of.

GRADE: The Cavaliers kept hanging around after handing back a 15-point lead, and Strus’ fourth-quarter flurry put them in position. And after all that, Washington’s layup nearly did them in.

Then Strus found bottoms on that 59-foot miracle.

Instead of three losses in four coming out of the break, it’s two wins in a row and counting. This is the kind of victory that seals playoff positions and could tee up a deep run through the East. 4.5 Horrys.

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