The Dallas Mavericks are 3-0 when Kyrie Irving plays and Luka Doncic sits after Friday’s 111-110 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The 30-year-old superstar returned after a three-game absence with a sore foot and never missed a beat, but it was Maxi Kleber, who drilled the 28th game-winning buzzer-beater in franchise history.
It was a crucial win for the Mavericks as it secured the season series over the Lakers and pushed themselves two games ahead of LA in the standings. Dallas jumped into a tie for sixth in the Western Conference with the Golden State Warriors thanks to a loss by the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 17. The Mavs face the defending champions for the tiebreaker on Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
Losing Friday’s game in LA would have been a gut punch for Dallas, and they almost did. The Mavericks were down four with just seven seconds remaining before turning the tide. Dallas had lost nine of their last 13 games coming in, and here is a look at how Kyrie Irving and Maxi Kleber saved the team’s season by making sure they defeated the Lakers on March 17.
Maxi Kleber makes 3 clutch free throws before hitting game-winner for Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs were trailing by four points with 14.1 seconds remaining when Kyrie Irving secured a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. He got to his spot on the right wing, but the Lakers sent two defenders and had Anthony Davis lurking in the paint. The eight-time All-Star faked a pass to Christian Wood before swinging the ball up top to a wide-open Maxi Kleber. AD rushed out to contest the shot and fouled the Mavericks' big man with just seven seconds remaining.
Dallas needed Kleber to sink all three free throws to have a chance. The 31-year-old knew that as he walked to the line and calmly knocked down all three. The Mavericks were still down by one with little time on the clock. They needed to foul quickly to keep their hopes alive. They did, and Anthony Davis missed one of two on the line at the other end to further open the door for Dallas.
The Lakers were not going to let Kyrie Irving defeat them. The eight-time All-Star got the ball, but LA had two defenders on him again, and he could not shake free. At the last possible moment, Irving swung the ball to an again wide-open Kleber, and number 42 drilled the first game-winner of his career.
Nobody will talk about those free throws, but they were just as clutch as the game-winner. Maxi Kleber did not have the best game of his career on Friday night in Los Angeles, but he stepped up when the Dallas Mavericks needed him to save their season.
Kyrie Irving deserves plenty of credit for this win as well.