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Kyrie Irving wows Mavericks with lefty hook to sink Nuggets

DALLAS — A detail about Kyrie Irving's second career winning game caught the eight-time All-Star by surprise.

“I thought I got a little closer to the paint, but I looked at it after the game and it was pretty far away,” Irving said after landing a contested left hook to give the Dallas Mavericks a 107-105 victory on Sunday. the afternoon. over the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

The exact distance of the doorbell, as tracked by Second Spectrum, was 20.1 feet. That ranks as the second-longest hook shot taken by any player this season, according to play-by-play data.

“What a shot by Kyrie,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, whose team fell to 47-21, sliding a half-game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for first place in the Western Conference. “Give him all the credit.”

The longest hook this season? That was for Irving, too, when he scored a goal from the top of the key in the Jan. 3 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. That right-footed shot was actually an accident, an errant lob pass intended for center Dereck Lively II that fortunately went into the hoop.

Irving credited hours in the gym working with his free hand for this spectacular game-winner, which resulted in his Mavericks teammates and minority owner Mark Cuban harassing him at half court. He entered the game with 38 of 87 left-handed shots this season, many of which were high-difficulty shots in the paint. The average distance of those left-handed attempts was 4.7 feet and the longest was 15 feet, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

But it felt natural for Irving, who had 24 points and nine assists in the win, to throw a left hook after coming off a baseline screen and catching Maxi Kleber's pass with 2.8 seconds left. With Nuggets superstar center Nikola Jokic under attack, Irving took two hard dribbles with his left hand toward the elbow to create enough space to elevate the hook shot.

“Man, most of it is instinctive and comes from preparing for hours that no one sees,” Irving said. “I saw Jokic taking my pull-up to the left. I knew he was going to go up, but I didn't know he was going to commit that way, so he was forcing me to get in the 3-point line. As soon as I felt him behind “I thought, oh, I have my left hand. It's wide open, so why not do it?”

It was a buzzer-beater that amazed even his Mavs co-star Luka Doncic, the NBA's leading scorer who has earned a reputation for making 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 because of left hamstring soreness. “I could not believe it”.

On a rare day off for Jokic, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting and seven assists, Dallas took its biggest lead of the afternoon when Irving set up Doncic for a layup that put the Mavs up by 13 points with 6: 50 remaining. The Nuggets rallied to take the lead with Jamal Murray's three-pointer to break the tie with 27.1 seconds left.

Doncic tied it again by making a catch-and-shoot pass, 29 feet, 3 inches from inbounds on the next possession after a timeout.

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

The Mavs ran the same infield play after a timeout following a missed mid-range shot by Murray. With Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope denying Doncic above the top of the arc, Kleber read that Irving had an advantage and handed him the pass.

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

After the shot went in, Irving responded with an exaggerated look at his left hand as he strutted toward teammates running toward him, celebrating a moment that could prove crucial in Dallas' attempt to avoid the inbound scenario. The Mavs (39-29), who have won five of six, are percentage points behind the Sacramento Kings (38-28), who sit in sixth place in the West standings.

“He's a magician,” Mavs center Daniel Gafford said. “He's a very sneaky finisher, but finishing somewhere that far around the basket? I don't know if he works on anything like that, but I know he works with his left hand. He came in and then we went crazy. “

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