Kyrie Irving pours in 42 points to propel Nets past Rockets

The Nets weren’t great Tuesday night, but Kyrie Irving lit up, they got lucky, and that was enough to put them in control of their own destiny.

A big night from Irving, a 118-105 win over Houston and losses from all of their play-in competition propelled Brooklyn from 10th place in the Eastern Conference to eighth and gave them the knowledge that if they win, they can finish seventh. . .

“Ohh,” Irving perked up when told after his 42-point outing. “Obviously we want to land in a better place than we are now. And if other teams are helping us, then I’m grateful for that. … This is a different scenario, this play-in tournament deal. It puts you in a position where you have to up your game for the challenge.

“Getting a win and then seeing how the uncontrollable results or the other games impact us, we prefer to be in the driver’s seat and sit comfortably and be able to control our own destiny.”

Kyrie Irving, who had 42 points, makes a layup during the Nets’ 118-105 win over the Rockets.
New York Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Irving, who shot just 36.2 percent in his previous five games, snapped out of his mini-slump. He attacked the rim, attacked the Rockets and lifted the Nets (41-38) to within two games of seventh-place Cleveland. They moved up to eighth in the East, thanks to the season series tiebreaker with Atlanta, and edged out Charlotte by one game.

With just three games remaining — at the Knicks on Wednesday, Cleveland on Friday and Indiana on Sunday — if the Nets win, they’ll be guaranteed the seventh seed and host a play-in game. They would need just one solitary victory to clinch the playoffs and have the security blanket of double elimination.

“I think it would be great. It would be great to be seventh. Better than eighth. Eighth better than ninth,” Steve Nash said. “At the same time, I think you have to strike a balance here. We want to win every game, we want to finish seventh, we want having the play-in at home and a chance to get into a game. … We also have to balance that with our growth, with all the injuries, making sure guys can get through in one piece as much as possible.”

Kevin Durant had 18 points, Bruce Brown 15 and Cam Thomas finished with 13.

Kyrie Irving high-fives Kevin Durant during the Nets' win.
Kyrie Irving high-fives Kevin Durant during the Nets’ win.
New York Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Irving had a quick 11 points to put the Nets up 25-18 from the start.

And even after they fell asleep and allowed the Rockets to get back into it, a dunk from Jalen Green (30 points) tying it up in 32, with 10:13 left in the half, they had no problem with Houston.

The Nets responded by racking up 10 unanswered points, highlighted by a sequence that saw them — with a great frontcourt from underused LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Claxton and Durant playing together — crash the boards for four straight offensive rebounds, capped by a head coach and a Irving’s free throw.

Kevin Durant, taking advantage of a Nic Claxton interception, drives to the basket during the Nets' win.
Kevin Durant, taking advantage of a Nic Claxton interception, drives to the basket during the Nets’ victory.
New York Post: Charles Wenzelberg

That made it 39-32, and Brown’s 3-pointer on the next possession pushed the mattress into double figures.

The Nets entered the locker room ahead 64-47 thanks to 22 points from Irving. It was his biggest halftime lead at home since Jan. 15 against New Orleans, after holding the Rockets to 37.7 percent shooting and 4-for-22 from deep.

The Nets led by 21 points in the third quarter and held off a big rally from Houston. Kevin Porter Jr. (36 points) got the Rockets within 90-84, but no closer when Irving stemmed the tide with a mid-range jumper and improved the defense.

“It wasn’t a great performance. I don’t think anyone in the locker room feels like it was a great performance,” Nash said. “I think we allowed too many offensive rebounds, we lost too many fumbles. It is a more complicated team to play than the record.

“We found a way. We got through some tough patches. I probably should have kept the lead at 20 in the second half, but I think they went on a 17-0 run. The opportunity for advancement is [Wednesday] evening.”

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