Resurgent Nets focused on long playoff run
Brooklyn will get two shots to reach first-round series
The Brooklyn Nets made the most of their final four games of the regular season, winning each and grabbing the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed ahead of Tuesday night’s play-in game vs. Cleveland here at Barclays Center.
Now, the goal is to get past the Cavaliers, or a potential second play-in game for the No. 8 seed.
Either way, the Nets will get two shots to play themselves into a more traditional playoff format.
“Now we get to carry some of that momentum on into Tuesday,” Kyrie Irving said after scoring 35 points in Sunday’s season-ending victory over Indiana on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
Irving, banned from playing in Brooklyn due to New York City’s vaccination mandates until last month, got plenty of help from his fellow superstar, Kevin Durant.
The two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player had 20 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to go with 10 assists Sunday as the Nets (44-38) averted traveling to Cleveland and a 9-10 play-in game, which could have left them on the outside looking in at the playoffs after one loss, instead of two.
“We stayed with it. We all had one goal in mind and we saw it through,” Nets center Andre Drummond said. “We finished off the year great.”
Drummond, Seth Curry and the mercurial Ben Simmons were the three key pieces in the trade-deadline deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia back in February.
Simmons hasn’t played since last May due to mental health concerns and his lack of interest in competing with the 76ers. The former No. 1 pick still hasn’t suited up for Brooklyn since his arrival and may not see any action unless the Nets find a way to play beyond this week.
“He’s doing a little bit of movement,” Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said of Simmons, who has been slowed by a herniated disk in his back.
“Still 1-on-0 stuff, so he still got a lot of milestones to reach, but it’s positive. At least he’s moving around a little bit.”
The Nets signed rookie Kessler Edwards to a standard NBA deal over the weekend, making his eligible to compete in Tuesday’s play-in game and going forward if Brooklyn advances.
The Nets won three of four regular-season meetings with the Cavaliers, including Friday night’s 118-107 win over Cleveland here that thrust Brooklyn into the No. 7 seed.
But seeding won’t mean much if the Nets lose to the Cavs, or play themselves into a best-of-7.
Then, the quest for our borough’s first major pro sports championship since 1955 will begin in earnest.
“That’s the past,” Irving said. “Now we just control what we can control and get ready to hoop.”
In other local pro basketball news, the WNBA Draft took place in Manhattan Monday night with the New York Liberty selecting Nyara Sabally from the University of Oregon with the fifth overall pick.
The Brooklyn-based Liberty also acquired the No. 18 overall pick from the Seattle Storm in exchange for New York’s 2023 second round selection.
The Liberty took Lorela Cubaj from Georgia Tech with the pick. New York also selected Sika Kone from Mali with the 29th overall selection.
“We’re ecstatic to welcome Nyara, Lorela and Sika to the New York Liberty family,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb.
“We feel Nyara is a top-end talent in this class. Her combination of size, speed, agility and touch is rare. We’re confident that once healthy, she will reach her incredibly high ceiling and have a real opportunity to develop into a cornerstone frontcourt player in the WNBA.”
The Liberty will open the 2022 campaign on May 7 vs. Connecticut in Downtown Brooklyn.
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