Nets chasing ‘bigger things’ after clincher
Brooklyn grabs playoff berth with win over Raptors
Boasting the best record in the Eastern Conference and expecting to seriously vie for Brooklyn’s first-ever NBA championship, the Nets weren’t exactly whooping it up in Tampa, Florida Tuesday night after securing their third straight playoff berth.
“I think we have our eyes on bigger things, but it’s a nice first step to clinch a berth,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash after Brooklyn rallied for a 116-103 victory over the relocated Toronto Raptors at a fanless Amalie Arena.
“For this group, facing all we’ve faced, to be in this position with 10 games left is very positive.”
Jeff Green scored 22 points, Kevin Durant added 17 and Joe Harris had 16 for the Nets (42-20), who actually wrapped up their spot in the postseason before the final buzzer thanks to losses by Boston and Charlotte Tuesday.
Making his first start since returning from a thigh contusion, Durant saved his best for last, scoring seven points in the final period, including a dagger 3-pointer with just under two minutes left that gave the Nets a 111-101 cushion.
While they’re still playing without two-time Eastern Conference Player of the Month James Harden, Durant and the rest of the Nets have won three in a row and four of their last five to remain 1 1/2 games in front of Philadelphia for the top record in the East.
“Just all of the adversity that we’ve fought through this year with injuries, protocols, trade situations and guys being in and out of the lineup, I’m very proud of everybody in the organization top to bottom,” noted Durant.
Blake Griffin scored 17 points off the bench, Landry Shamet added 14, newly signed Mike James had 11 and Tyler Johnson finished with 10 for Brooklyn’s well-balanced attack.
Kyrie Irving, limited to only nine points on 3-of-13 shooting, wasn’t one of the seven Nets who scored in double figures.
But knowing that Durant and Irving only combined for 26 points on a night Brooklyn wrapped up a playoff spot for the sixth time in nine seasons in our borough was a good sign heading into the final 10 games of the campaign.
“We can be proud of ourselves,” insisted Green, who also grabbed eight rebounds and made half of his 16 field-goal attempts. “We fought through adversity, with the injuries to Kev, now to James, guys in and out of the lineups.
“We’ve battled through it all. At the end of the day, we’ve fought and at the end of the day, we put ourselves in position to clinch tonight. That’s something we can be proud of, but we also have to realize that that’s not the goal.”
It’s certainly not.
Armed with three of the top-10 players in the league, an owner willing to show off how bottomless his pockets are and a fan base starved for a parade down Flatbush Avenue, the Nets are on the clock to deliver a title this summer.
But first, they must navigate the next 10 games, stay ahead of the Sixers if they want home-court throughout the playoffs and get Harden (hamstring) back in time to be at close to full strength come playoff time.
“We have to continue to work with these next 10 games that we have to continue to get better to put ourselves in the best position for the playoffs,” added Green.
“And then, we have to take on the next step, and that’s focusing on what we need to accomplish in the playoffs to get to our ultimate goal. So we have to be excited with some of the things that we’ve done, but we can’t be content and we have to continue to work.”
The Nets’ work resumes Thursday night in Indiana at 7 p.m.
As they make their final preparations for Thursday evening’s first-round NCAA Tournament match against Milwaukee, the St. Francis Brooklyn men’s soccer club is sticking to basics.
Boasting one of the best team defenses in the region and backstopped by Northeast Conference Goaltender of the Year Callum James, the Terriers aren’t looking for any strategic alterations to their game plan ahead of their first College Cup contest since 2017.
“Milwaukee is a very good team. They are a very good offensive team. They have a player with 11 goals, one with five and another player with nine assists,” SFC head coach Tom Giovatto told the Eagle via email from Wilmington, North Carolina.
“We are going to have to be sharp defensively,” he added. “We are going to have to play the way we have played all year. We don’t have to do anything differently. The way we played all year is the reason we are in the NCAA tournament.”
If the Terriers win their first tournament game since 1978, they will remain in Wilmington for Sunday’s second-round match vs. third-seeded Indiana.
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