Durant and Irving put away Pistons
Superstar tandem shines in much-needed win over Detroit
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are trying to drive the Nets into the playoffs on a high note.
More importantly, both want to be healthy and ready to go come the postseason.
“We just want to be healthy. We all understand what playoff basketball is about,” Durant said after pouring in 41 points and grabbing 11 rebounds Tuesday night in Brooklyn’s 130-123 victory over the Detroit Pistons before a rapt crowd of 17,599 at Barclays Center.
Having been cleared to play in his home arena despite remaining unvaccinated, Irving added 24 points for the Nets (40-38), who stayed in eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, 3 1/2 games behind sixth-place Cleveland for the right to advance directly into a playoff series.
“I think (Irving) is getting better. Getting his feet under him in stretches,” Nets head coach Steve Nash noted.
If Brooklyn remains between the seventh and 10th seeds, it will have to compete in a four-team play-in tournament just to reach a best-of-7.
Regardless of how the Nets enter the playoffs, however, having Durant and Irving together again here in Brooklyn and anywhere else except perhaps Toronto has to be heartening to a squad that has played without their other superstar here since the campaign began.
Bruce Brown scored 15 points, Andre Drummond had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Seth Curry and Nic Claxton added 11 apiece as the Nets swept the season series from Detroit for the first time since 2013.
The Pistons remained close throughout, but Curry drained a 24-footer with 2:36 remaining in regulation that grew the Brooklyn lead to 122-115.
Durant and Irving combined to make four free throws down the stretch to put Detroit away as the Nets won their first game at Barclays with Irving this year after losing Sunday to Charlotte in his Downtown season debut.
“The defensive effort changed in the second half. … We fought through it and came out with the ‘W’,” Durant noted. “We just kept fighting and getting into bodies more in that second half.”
Cade Cunningham scored a team-high 34 points for Detroit (20-56), which dropped its third in a row.
The Nets will complete this three-game homestand Friday vs. defending NBA champion Milwaukee, the team that knocked Brooklyn out of the playoffs last season in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We can’t rely on the second half. We have to play better than that (against Milwaukee),” Drummond said.
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