Bring on the Boston Celtics.
The Nets punched their ticket to the big dance and a date with the Celtics in the first round after they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the play-in round on Tuesday night. While the game didn’t exactly go according to plan for the Nets at times, Brooklyn pulled out the win in the end.
The win clinches Brooklyn the seven seed in the East for the first round, which will begin on Sunday with the Nets traveling to Boston. Nets fans chanted “We Want Boston” during the closing minutes of the game as a victory seemed all but certain for the home team.
It marks the second consecutive season that the Nets will open a postseason run against the Celtics.
Brooklyn led by as much as 22 in the third and watched as the Cavaliers dwindled it down to single digits in the fourth quarter. By the 5:05 mark of the final period, Evan Mobile had cut Brooklyn’s lead down six before Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving finished the job to get the Nets into the playoffs.
“We just stayed poised,” Durant said. “We know teams going to muck the game up when we get up and throw a zone. Next possession might trap a pick and roll, so sometimes they just throw curveballs at us defensively and may slow us down a bit. But I think we handled everything pretty solid even though they played different defenses we still got solid looks that didn’t go down.”
Irving and Durant were the stars of Tuesday’s performance, with Bruce Brown, Andre Drummond and Nic Claxton playing critical roles as well. Irving finished the game with 34 points and 12 assists in an effort that saw him shoot a perfect 11-for-11 from the field up until the fourth quarter.
“You never know why when someone gets in a zone like that,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of Irving’s shooting.
Durant had another huge effort for the Nets, scoring 25 points, adding 11 assists and blocking three shots. Bruce Brown had 18 points and Andre Drummond finished the night with 16 points and eight rebounds. Fellow big Claxton had 13 points, an additional nine rebounds and five blocks.
“I wasn’t too worried about it,” Brown said about the Nets’ lead dwindling in the second half. “We was just turning the ball over making careless passes. I had like two of them. We just had to slow down and score and that’s one thing we can do aad defend down on the other end.”
The Nets came out swinging on Tuesday night in the win and they’re in game against the Cavs. By the 7:12 mark of the first, Brooklyn had already opened up a 15-9 lead after Durant knocked down a pull-up jumper and forced Cleveland to take a timeout.
Out of the stoppage of play, Durant managed to swat away a Lauri Markkanen layup attempt and then the Nets moved the ball the other way, ending things with Durant setting up Andre Drummond for a dunk.
Brooklyn built up their lead to 12 after Irving hit a turnaround fadeaway shot with 1:51 left in the first quarter. It was part of a 20-6 run through the final 4:06 of the opening period.
The Cavaliers managed to put some pressure on the Nets to start the second, going on a 9-2 run that culminated with a three from Kevin Love. While the period was ugly for the Nets, who were held to just eight points until the 1:12 mark, it was even worse for the Cavs.
Cleveland shot a paltry 35.7% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc in the second quarter. Brooklyn ended the quarter still ahead by 14 after Irving drilled a pull-up jumper at the buzzer.
The Nets held a moment of silence for the victims of Tuesday morning’s subway shooting in Sunset Park, just blocks away from the team’s practice facility. It was also announced that the team, along with New York Liberty Foundation, would donate $50,000 to the victims of the attack.
“Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by the tragic event at the 36th St. Subway station in Brooklyn this morning. Thank you to all who answered the call for help today,” the Nets said in a statement earlier in the day.
At least 20 people were injured, 10 of whom were shot, when a gunman opened fire on a Manhattan-bound N express train near 36th Street and 4th Avenue.