Brooklyn Boro

Irving improves Nets’ play-in positioning

Brooklyn climbs into tie for eighth after beating Rockets

April 6, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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When you’re gunning for an NBA championship, climbing into a tie for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference postseason race is hardly ground-breaking news.

But Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets will take it as the play-in tournament approaches.

“We obviously want to land in a better spot than we are now,” admitted Irving after putting up 42 points in the Nets’ 118-105 victory over the Houston Rockets Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 17,768 at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

The win did just that.

Brooklyn (41-38) moved into a tie with Atlanta for the eighth spot, which it can ride into a play-in with seventh-place Cleveland next week for the right to advance to a first-round playoff series.

The Nets are 1 1/2 games behind the Cavaliers, but will get a chance to host the Cavs here on Friday.

However, if the Nets finish ninth or 10th in the play-in race, they will get a single game to either survive or advance.

The loser of the 7-8 game will at the very least get a second chance to make the playoffs via a win over the team that won the 9-10 game.

So it is imperative that the Nets make the most of their final three regular-season games, beginning with Wednesday’s visit to Madison Square Garden to take on the arch rival New York Knicks.

Irving, who went 13-of-24 from the floor and 8-of-16 from 3-point range, also handed out six assists, grabbed three boards and blocked a shot in a team-high 40 minutes on the hardwood.

Nets superstar Kevin Durant scored 18 points and watched Kyrie Irving do the rest Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. AP Photo by Bebeto Matthews

 

Rather than dwell on his individual achievements, Irving chose to point out what the Nets need to do better down the stretch.

“We just wanna carry (this) into tomorrow’s game. … I think we have to have a bit more pride in our defense and pay attention to detail,” he noted after Brooklyn nearly squandered a 21-point second-half lead.

The Rockets closed to within 90-84 on Kevin Porter Jr.’s free throw with 8:50 remaining in regulation.

But Irving was more than up to the task. He scored the next eight points, capping the outburst with a trio of free throws that gave Brooklyn a 98-84 cushion with 7:10 left.

“When the game starts to get a little out of hand or we have a big lead and let it go, then it’s time to put the foot back on the gas pedal and I have to lead by example,” Irving said.

Porter Jr. had a season-high 36 points for the league-worst Rockets (20-60), who dropped their fourth straight contest.

Kevin Durant scored 18 points, Bruce Brown finished with 15 and rookie Cam Thomas had 13 off the bench for the Nets, who ended a two-game slide and regained control of their own playoff destiny for the 7-8 game.

If Brooklyn wins its next four games, including a play-in, it will be the No. 7 seed in the East and be in a best-of-7 for the right to advance to the conference semifinals.

“We’d rather be in the driver’s seat and control our own destiny,” Irving said.

Thanks to him, they are.

Now, we just have to see how far they can drive it.

Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash hopes to point the way to a favorable position in the NBA’s upcoming play-in tournament. AP Photo by Bebeto Matthews

NOTHING BUT NET: Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash took time to pay tribute to long-time Nets official scorer Herb Turetsky, who died Monday at the age of 76. Beginning as a student at Downtown’s Long Island University in 1967, Turetsky, also known as Mr. Net, scored well over 2,000 games for the franchise throughout the tri-state area, including here at Barclays. “He was a beloved figure within the organization and beyond,” Nash said. “We want to make sure his family recognizes how important he was to the franchise and how our thoughts are with them at this time.” Turetsky was honored with a video tribute Tuesday night.


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