LOS ANGELES – Obviously, the man of the hour for the Dallas Mavericks today is Maxi Kleber.
And for very obvious reasons.
With the Mavs down two points to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at Crypto.com Arena — and time running out — Kleber successfully drilled a cold-blooded three-point shot as time expired as the Mavs rallied and claimed a stunning 111-110 victory.
It marked the first time Kleber has ever converted a game-winning shot at the buzzer in his NBA career.
In this case, the plan was for Kyrie Irving to take and make the game-winning shot – or at least tie the game up and send it into overtime with a two-pointer. But the Lakers sent two defenders over to smother Irving, thus forcing the ball out of his hands and into the hands of Kleber, who got off his shot with a mere 0.2 seconds remaining.
“When I shoot it I should always think it’s going in, but obviously it was a quick trigger, so I didn’t really have time to think,” Kleber said. “It all happened so fast.
“The only thing, like I said, what I saw 2.5 seconds on the shot clock, and I saw Kyrie didn’t get a shot off. So, I tried to be available for him so he has at least an outlet, because a shot is better than no shot.”
Hoisting up shots to win a game is not something Kleber is accustomed to doing. Those type of plays are drawn up for the superstars of the NBA.
“Obviously we want Kyrie or Luka (Doncic) to take those type of shots,” Kleber said. “But I had to make myself available, and that’s what I did and I just shot it.”
The game-winner was indeed a shot in the arm for Kleber, particularly after what occurred Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs.
With the Mavs ahead of the Spurs by two points and only 1.8 seconds left, Kleber inexplicably tossed an inbound pass down the court and out of bounds without it even touching anyone. Thus, the Spurs regained possession of the ball.
Kleber then inexplicably allowed Keldon Johnson to slip pass him for a lob dunk on the inbounds pass that tied the game and sent it into overtime. The Mavs ultimately won the game, but they needed five extra minutes of overtime to do it.
“The San Antonio game was probably one of the worst endings,” Kleber said. “I had like a very, very low and a very, very high right now back-to-back.”
And that “very, very high” feels very, very good for Kleber.
“The biggest thing is I just got to go into the next practice the same way and prepare for the next game the same way,” he said. “Obviously I will enjoy it. It was a special moment.
“I’ve never had a shot like that before. But at the same time we’ve got to focus on the next game.
Here are the three takeaways from the one-point win over the Lakers.
KLEBER DRAINS THE GAME-WINNER: Maxi Kleber scored 10 points during Friday’s one-point cliffhanger of a win over the Lakers. The last six points came in the final 7.2 seconds of a game the Mavs appeared well on their way to losing. Kleber popped in three free throws after he was fouled by Anthony Davis while he was attempting a three-pointer to get the Mavs within 109-108 of the Lakers with 7.2 seconds left. Then after Davis split a pair of free throws, Kleber took a pass from Kyrie Irving and converted a game-winning three-pointer as time expired.
WELCOME BACK, IRVING: Kyrie Irving sure knows how to make a grand entrance. After missing three games with right foot soreness, Irving made a Hollywood-type return on Friday, finishing with 38 points, six rebounds and six assists. Irving was 14-of-23 from the field – 5-of-9 from three-point land – and had the Lakers on skates all night long. In Irving’s 39 eventful minutes on the court, he was extremely dominant and showed why the Mavs were so eager to obtain his services last month during a blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
WOOD FILLED THE STAT SHEET: Christian Wood had himself one of those games where he was just all over the place while filling up the stat sheet with a variety of numbers. Wood finished with just 12 points in 34 minutes. But he also picked up nine rebounds, eight assists, a game-high four steals and one blocked shot. And for good measure, Wood was whistled for a technical foul. Overall, Wood was 5-of-15 from the field, including 2-of-3 from behind the three-point line.
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