Max Strus gets loose vs. Mavs; Jrue Holiday expected to join Team USA

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Don’t leap to any conclusions about February being over after today. Tomorrow is Feb. 29.

59-foot Game-Winner

Max Strus was the most clutch last night

Last night in Cleveland, the Mavericks (33-25, eighth in West) were poised for a high-quality road victory. With 3:57 left in the fourth quarter, Kyrie Irving made a layup to put Dallas up 110-100. And considering Dallas has been the NBA’s best clutch team this season, the Mavs had to feel pretty good about closing this one out, even if the Cavaliers (38-19, second in East) made a run. What they weren’t counting on was Max Strus going nuts.

In the game’s final four minutes, Strus took five shots, all 3-pointers. Within the blink of an eye, he ran off four straight made 3s, bringing Cleveland within one point at 113-112 with 2:35 left. Cleveland battled back to have the ball while up one point with 8.1 seconds left before Evan Mobley turned it over on an inbound pass to give the Mavs their chance.

After Dallas nearly gave it back on the ensuing inbound pass, Luka Dončić got to the middle of the floor and found P.J. Washington for a contested dunk to put the Mavs up one. Cleveland was out of timeouts with 2.1 seconds left, so Strus inbounded the ball to Mobley in the backcourt. Mobley pitched it back to Strus, who let it fly from 59 feet.

In the words of Mike Breen: BANG! That was five buckets in the final four minutes – all from 3. Strus was as clutch as possible, leaving the Mavs stunned. The loss knocked them down to a half game behind the Kings for the No. 7 seed in the West. That Strus heave might be the difference between a top-six finish for Dallas and needing to survive the Play-In Tournament.

The Latest From Shams

Holiday expected to join Team USA

Celtics star guard Jrue Holiday is expected to be among the 12 members of Team USA’s roster for the 2024 Olympics, barring unforeseen circumstances, sources with knowledge of the situation tell me and Joe Vardon.

USA Basketball has been pursuing Holiday for much of the NBA season, and it’s believed Holiday has delivered his commitment to USAB officials in recent weeks, sources said. Team officials have valued Holiday’s two-way ability, point-of-attack defense and dynamic playmaking. Holiday was considered Team USA’s second-most important player behind Kevin Durant on the gold-medal-winning team in Tokyo in 2021. Holiday would join several superstar players who are considered locks for the Paris Games, barring injury, including Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum.

Holiday, a two-time NBA All-Star, five-time All-Defensive team member and 2021 champion with the Milwaukee Bucks, is averaging 13 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his first season with the Celtics. The Celtics are 46-12 this season and lead the East by 7.5 games. Holiday has scored 15,566 points in 15 NBA seasons.

About Last Night

How did the playoff picture change?

Avoiding the East Play-In Tournament

Heat 106, Blazers 96: Second night of a back-to-back, but the Heat (33-25) had Jimmy Butler back to eventually shut down the Blazers (15-42, 14th in West). Miami has now won six straight road games and outscored Portland 60-40 in the second half. The Heat moved up to fifth in the East, a game and a half behind New York (35-24).

Magic 108, Nets 81: Orlando (33-26, seventh in East) forced 20 turnovers in this beatdown of the Nets to move within a half game of Philadelphia for the No. 6 seed in the East. The Magic have the easiest strength of schedule the rest of the way. Brooklyn (22-36, 11th in East) has lost eight of 10.

Celtics 117, 76ers 99: The Sixers (33-25) tried to make a run in the fourth, but they couldn’t keep Boston from its ninth-straight win. Philly fell to sixth in the East and is in real danger of ending up in the Play-In.

Don’t be that team

Pistons 105, Bulls 95: The Pistons (9-49, last in East) deserved a little luck. Chicago (27-31, ninth in East) shot 2 of 29 from 3-point range in this game. That’s 6.9 percent! There’s nothing nice about that shooting performance, unless you’re Detroit.

Warriors 123, Wizards 112: Remember Kyle Kuzma’s “don’t be that team” tweet from three months ago, when the Pistons were up big on the Celtics during Detroit’s historic losing streak? Pepperidge Farm remembers. This loss tied the Wizards (also 9-49) and the Pistons in the standings. Washington is a league-worst 4-24 since that tweet.

Everything else from last night

Bucks 123, Hornets 85: So much for the Hornets (15-43, 13th in East) turning the corner with their defense. This one was ugly. The Bucks (38-21, third in East) once led this game by 49 points. Thanasis Antetokounmpo played the entire fourth quarter but didn’t score.

Pelicans 115, Knicks 92: The Pelicans (35-24, fifth in West) wrecked this skeleton crew for the 35-24 Knicks (no Jalen Brunson, no Julius Randle, no Patrick Ewing, no Stephon Marbury). Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Trey Murphy III had 71 points combined. New York trails Milwaukee by three games.

Hawks 124, Jazz 97: The Quin Snyder Bowl! This was a truly terrible loss for the Jazz (27-32), considering how badly they were beaten and that they’re now four games outside of the West Play-In. Jalen Johnson had 22 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the Trae Young-less Hawks (26-32, 10th in East), who have a four-game lead for the last Play-In spot.

Let Bronny Be a Kid

LeBron James tweeted, deleted sage advice

Recently, ESPN removed Bronny James – USC player and son of LeBron James – from their 2024 mock draft, dropping him to a 2025 second-round mock projection. The only thing that’s notable about this is it caused LeBron to tweet then delete what actually was good perspective on Bronny and anybody else chasing the NBA dream.


James added another tweet that was also deleted, which said:

“And to all the other kids out there striving to be great just keep your head down, blinders on and keep grinding. These Mock Drafts doesn’t matter one bit! I promise you! Only the WORK MATTERS!! Let’s talk REAL BASKETBALL PEOPLE!”

To be fair, it was reported that James, earlier this season, said Bronny could play on the Lakers now. And he did say back in March 2023 that Bronny was already better than some players he was watching on League Pass. Of course, that was before his son’s scary heart incident last summer, which can take a lot to recover from.

I’m sure LeBron felt like he was protecting his son from online chatter with the since-deleted tweets, but screenshots live forever. Here’s hoping Bronny has fully recovered health-wise and can safely pursue the NBA. Sam Vecenie shared his thoughts on Bronny as a prospect.

Bounce Passes

My Week 19 Power Rankings have the Bucks rising and rookies shining!

Klay Thompson is embracing the sixth-man role for the Warriors.

Luka Dončić’s trick shots don’t just happen. He works on them tirelessly.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Pelicans-Pacers (7:30 p.m. ESPN). Two of the more fun teams both looking for more national exposure.
  • Second Screen: Lakers-Clippers (10 p.m. ESPN). Remember when this was must-see TV? It could still be fun, though.
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Kings-Nuggets (9 p.m.). This could be a potential first-round matchup. We’ll see plenty of points fly. Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Jason Miller / Getty Images )

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