Kyrie Irving stuns the Mavericks with a left hook to sink the Nuggets

DALLAS — One detail about the second game-winning buzzer-beater of Kyrie Irving's career surprised the eight-time All-Star guard.

“I thought I got a little close in the paint, but I looked at it after the game and I was too far away,” Irving said after landing a contested left-handed hook shot to give the Dallas Mavericks a 107-105 win on Sunday afternoon. On the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

The exact distance of the bell beater, according to Second Spectrum tracking, was 20.1 feet. This ranks as the second-longest hook shot by any player this season, according to play-by-play data by

“Infernal shot from Kyrie,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, whose team fell to 47-21 after trailing half the game to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for first place in the Western Conference. “Give him all the credit.”

Longest hook of the season? It was also by Irving, when he scored from the top of the key in a Jan. 3 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. That right shot was actually an accident, as it was an errant high pass intended for center Derek Lively II that fortunately went into the hoop.

Irving earned credit hours in the gym working alone on that stunning game-winner, leading to him being mobbed by his Mavericks teammates and minority owner Mark Cuban at half court. He entered the game 38 of 87 on left-handed shots that season, many of which were finishes with a high degree of difficulty in the paint. The average distance of those southern attempts was 4.7 feet, and the longest was 15 feet, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

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But if it was normal for Irving, who had 24 points and nine assists in the win, to fire a left hook after stepping over the baseline barrier and picking off an inbounds pass from Maxi Kleber with 2.8 seconds left. With Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic turning to him, Irving made two powerful dribbles with his left hand toward the elbow to create enough space to lift the hook shot.

“Man, most of it is instinctive and comes from preparing for hours that nobody sees,” Irving said. “I saw Jokic pulling left on me. I knew he was going to come up, but I didn't know he was going to commit like that, so he was forcing me to the 3-point line. Once I kind of felt him behind me, I was like, 'Oh, I've got my left hand. It's wide open.' Why don't I go to her?”

It was a buzzer-beater that stunned even Mavs co-star Luka Doncic, the NBA's scoring leader who has developed a reputation for hitting ridiculously difficult shots.

“That shot was unbelievable, man,” said Doncic, who scored 37 points in his return after missing Thursday's loss to the Thunder due to left hamstring pain. “I couldn't believe it.”

In a rare day off for Jokic, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting and seven assists, Dallas built its biggest lead of the afternoon when Irving assisted Doncic on a layup that put the Mavs ahead by 13 points with 6:50 remaining. . The Nuggets went ahead on Jamal Murray's tie-breaking 3 with 27.1 seconds left.

Doncic tied it again by hitting a 29-foot 3 from the inbounds pass on the next possession after a timeout.

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“I give him a lot of credit for getting us to that position and then letting me get the game-winning goal at the end,” Irving said of Doncic.

The Mavs ran the same inbounds play after a timeout after Murray pulled a mid-range miss. With Nuggets goaltender Kentavious Caldwell-Pope blocking Doncic from the top of the arc, the Clipper read that Irving had an advantage and delivered the pass to him.

“He is very gifted and talented [with] “He makes crazy moves like that, that's what he does. But it's still an unbelievable shot, so obviously you're going to be a little shocked once it goes in,” Kleber said.

After the shot went in, Irving responded by staring exaggeratedly at his left hand as he strutted toward teammates rushing toward him, marking a moment that could be pivotal in Dallas' attempt to avoid a play-action scenario. The Mavs (39-29), who have won five of six, are percentage points behind the sixth-place Sacramento Kings (38-28) in the AL West.

“He's magical,” Mavs center Daniel Gafford said. “He's a very skilled finisher, but finishing too far from the basket? I don't know if he works on something like that, but I know he works with his left hand. It went in and then we went crazy.” “

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