Nic Claxton, Andre Drummond playing important roles for Nets

Nic Claxton Andre Drummond
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert (3) passes the ball defended by Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton (33) and forward Bruce Brown (1) and guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the second half at Barclays Center.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It was a little less than a month ago that Andre Drummond told reporters that the Nets were wise to not have traded Nic Claxton at the NBA trade deadline, and that certainly has proven to be true as Brooklyn gets set to face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

The third-year big, combined with the veteran center, has helped become part of a formidable duo in Brooklyn. The latest example came in the Nets’ play-in round win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night as Claxton and Drummond combined for 17 of the team’s 43 rebounds.

Claxton also blocked five shots during the course of the 29 minutes that he played off the bench.

“We knew for us to beat this team we going to have to be in the paint, box out and run back on defense,” Kevin Durant said. “I think Clax and Drumm did an amazing job of doing those things and being available in the offensive end. … You talk about me protecting the rim, that was him that set the tone (with blocks). He did it all night. I was just there assisting him.”

Drummond and Claxton have been the primary bigs in the Nets’ rotation, especially after LaMarcus Aldridge suffered an injury and has not gotten playing time since. Drummond has been a rebounding machine in the final weeks of the regular season and recorded 10 or more rebounds in eight of Brooklyn’s final nine games.

Claxton has helped as well to protect the rim and was shooting 77.6% from the field in the final 10 games of the year for Brooklyn, and that’s without his 6-of-6 shooting night in the play-in round. All of that will come in handy with the Celtics on deck.

“I think Drumm and Nic did a good job of setting the tone,” Durant said. “Just with the physicality, rebounding, sprinting back on defense. Just attention to detail. We’re going to need that going forward.”