Nets improve in crucial playoff seeding with win over Cleveland

Nets forward Kevin Durant drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen.
Nets forward Kevin Durant drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets won a crucial victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night, which helped the team secure a better spot in the NBA playoff picture. 

Kevin Durant’s 36 points propelled the team from Barclays Center to a 118–107 win, as every Nets starter recorded double-digit points in the April 8 contest. 

The Nets have now moved to the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, which, if the season ended now, would pit them against the Cavs in the first round of the NBA’s play-in tournament. 

Under the rules adopted in the 2020 offseason, the 7th seed will host the 8th seed in a single-game matchup, with the winner going on to the full playoffs, consisting of 7 game series matchups. The loser of the 7–8 matchup will face off against the winner of the game between the 9 and 10 seeds for the final spot in the playoffs. 

The Nets have been rallying recently, with a newly-healthy Durant, as well as a full time Kyrie Irving, to secure a higher seed in the conference, as they recently clinched a spot in the play-in.

Mayor Eric Adams adjusted the requirement that all New York City employees be vaccinated (which Irving is not) to exclude athletes and performers — thus allowing Irving to once more take the court for games in the Big Apple.  

[READ ALSO: Adams amending NYC vaccine mandate to allow Kyrie Irving, other athletes to play at home]

The Nets have one game remaining, which comes at home against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night, which will help ultimately determine their play-in seeding. 

The game against the young Cavalier team started off strong for Brooklyn, with the team controlling the scoreboard 19–34 after the first quarter, and heading into halftime with a 54–62 lead. 

The Cavs, led by 22-year-old point guard Darius Garland, managed to regain the lead in the third quarter 88–81, which silenced the otherwise-ecstatic Barclays Center crowd. 

Nevertheless, Durant and Irving, along with a strong showing from the team’s role players propelled the team to an explosive 4th quarter, where they outscored Cleveland 35–19 to secure the win. 

Head Coach Steve Nash, after the game, highlighted that the team has played a tighter rotation of players as this was a “must win game,” with the starting lineup playing heavier minutes — including Durant (41), Bruce Brown (40), Andre Drummond (24), Irving (39), and Seth Curry (29).

Patty Mills and Kessler Edwards, off the bench, both recorded 24 minutes, while Nic Claxton added another 16.

The game also served as somewhat of a homecoming for former-Nets fan-favorite Caris LeVert, who earned some light-hearted booing from the home crowd. LeVert left the team in the Harden trade, and recorded 16 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds in the game.

Meanwhile, Ben Simmons, the former 76er, who the Nets acquired in a trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia, remained on the bench as he continues to deal with back troubles that arose during his ramp-up — though the Nets remain optimistic that the stellar defender will return in time for the playoffs. 

[READ ALSO: ​​Ben Simmons return won’t come until playoffs]

If the team can remain as a 7th or 8th seed, they will face off against their counterpart in the first round of the play-in tournament, and, in the case of a loss, they will then face the winner of the matchup between the 9th and 10th seed.