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Kevin Durant’s 36 points lifts Nets over Cavaliers to 7-seed

After all of the wacky variables that have defined — and threatened — their ebb and flow season, the final task for the Nets is simple.

The Nets have a chance to seal the No. 7 play-in position in the Eastern Conference in their regular-season finals after earning a crucial 118-107 win over the Cavaliers at the Barclays Center on Friday night.

After Kevin Durant took a 36-point lead in 41 minutes to make up for a poor evening of shooting from Kyrie Irving (7-for-22, 18 points), the Nets can take seventh place in the East with a home win over the Nets on Sunday gain pacers eliminated.

Bruce Brown had an outstanding all-around game with 18 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocked shots, while Andre Drummond also had a double-double (15 points and 12 boards) in the Nets’ third straight win.

The Nets (43-38) drew level with the dwindling Cavaliers, who had lost 17 of their last 25, but coach Steve Nash’s team controls its own destiny by owning the head-to-head tiebreak between the teams. A seventh or eighth place finish would mean the Nets would only need to win one play-in game to qualify for the first round of the playoffs. The teams ranked ninth and tenth would need to win twice to earn the No. 8 playoff seed.

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant reacts during the Nets’ win over the Cavaliers.
NBAE via Getty Images

All-Star Guard Darius Garland scored 31 points for Cleveland and Rookie of the Year contestant Evan Mobley added 17 points after missing the last five games with an ankle injury.

“I think just knowing that we have the opportunity to take that position gives us a little more fuel,” Drummond said before the game. “I think these are competitive games for us. I think we know what’s ahead and we know what’s going to happen if we win those two games.

“I think our sense of urgency is a little bit higher than before. And I think we’re ready to take that next step.”

Bruce Brown lays up during the Nets' win over the Cavaliers.
Bruce Brown lays up during the Nets’ win over the Cavaliers.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Nets have grappled with various roster issues throughout the season, most notably Irving’s absence from the lineup at home games through March 28 due to his decision not to remain vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as injuries suffered by Durant and others. Ben Simmons (rear) has also not campaigned for the team since taking over from the 76ers in James Harden’s blockbuster trade as of February deadline.

Behind Durant and Irving, the Nets overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half Wednesday to beat the Knicks at the Garden.

Durant, who realized after that win that coming from behind so often is “too risky,” led the Nets to a 34-17 lead with 16 points in the first quarter on Friday night.

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant finished the game with a game-high 36 points.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Cavaliers, who have been without an all-star center and former Net Jarrett Allen (finger) since March 6, drew within four points in the second quarter before trailing 62-54 at halftime.

The Nets’ cushion was temporarily pushed back to double figures early in the third round, but Garland scored 11 points to lead a 28-11 run, resulting in an 88-83 turnaround advantage for the Cavaliers going into the final period occurred.

Durant sat down to start the fourth but was back on court after just 1:28, putting the Nets back in the lead 95-93 with a 3-pointer and 8:50 remaining. A dunk from Drummond and two free throws from Irving completed a 10-0 sprint for the Nets to extend their lead to six.

Back-to-back triples by Durant and Brown increased the lead to 105-97 just after the middle of the quarter, with Brown then sprinting across the court with both arms overhead as the Nets began to pull away.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/08/kevin-durants-36-points-lift-nets-over-cavaliers-into-7-seed/ Kevin Durant’s 36 points lifts Nets over Cavaliers to 7-seed

JOE HERNANDEZ

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