Nets beat Pacers to lock up 7th, host play-in game Tuesday

NEW YORK (AP) — Four wins in the past week have sent the Brooklyn Nets to seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

One more win sends them to the playoffs.

“Now we can carry some of that momentum into Tuesday,” Kyrie Irving said.

Irving scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had a career-high 20 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds, and the Nets clinched seventh place with a 134-126 win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

The Nets will host No. 8 Cleveland on Tuesday in the play-in tournament, with the winner advancing to the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. The loser will get a second chance hosting the game winner among the No. 9 seeds. and 10 on Friday.

Brooklyn and Cleveland finished 44-38, but the Nets won the season series to pick up the tiebreaker.

Durant shot just 5-for-17 from the field but finished with his fourth triple-double, his highest total in any season. Andre Drummond added 20 points on 9-for-9 shooting with 13 rebounds. Bruce Brown scored 21 points in the Nets’ fourth straight win to close out the regular season.

The Nets entered the final week in danger of finishing ninth or 10th, which would have meant needing two wins, at least one on the road, in the play-in to reach the postseason.

But they took advantage of a soft schedule in their final days, with wins over Houston and New York before beating Cleveland on Friday. The Nets needed to finish strong after an uneven regular season.

“We stay with that. We all had a goal in mind and we achieved it,” said Drummond. “We finished the year very well.”

Brooklyn Nets center Kevin Durant catches a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on Sunday, April 10, 2022, in New York.

Oshae Brissett scored 28 points for the Pacers, who lost their last 10 games to finish 25-57. Indiana did not win after March 20. Buddy Hield added 21.

The Nets made 20 of their first 26 shots (Durant was 0-for-5, the rest of the team 20-for-21) and opened a 47-29 lead just over a minute into the second quarter.

The Nets led 76-60 at halftime, but the Pacers started the third quarter on a 17-2 run to make it a one-point game. Terry Taylor’s basket tied the score at 91, but Irving hit a 3-pointer before Durant scored and then lobbed Nic Claxton for a dunk that quickly pushed the score to 98-91.

“Irving and Durant are tough to play, but the guys stood their ground and got back in the game, gave us a chance,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Pacers kept trying to come back even after the Nets clawed back a double-digit lead, but Irving answered with baskets a couple of times when he got close. He shot 15 of 20.

“That’s what makes them all-time greats,” guard TJ McConnell said of Irving and Durant. “If anyone thinks he’s going to guard Kyrie 1-1 and be effective, I think he may have something else to come.”

TIPS

Pacers: Duane Washington Jr. scored 18 points. Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points and 10 assists.

Nets: Seth Curry missed the game with sore left ankle. … Coach Steve Nash said G Goran Dragic, who missed his fifth straight game while under health and safety protocols, has been feeling better and could play Tuesday if he is cleared on time.

SIMMONS STATE

Ben Simmons, who hasn’t played for the Nets since being acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, worked out on the court before the game. Nash provided a positive update on the 2016 No. 1 pick, who has been battling back issues that include a herniated disc.

“He’s doing a little bit of movement,” Nash said. “He’s still 1v0, so he still has a lot of milestones to reach, but it’s positive. At least he’s moving around a bit.”

DEAL OF THE DAY

Kessler Edwards started the day the Nets signed him to a standard NBA contract, making him eligible to play in the postseason. Pepperdine’s second-round pick had a two-way deal, which would not have allowed him to play next week.

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