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Nets clinch playoffs for second straight year after 119-106 win over Kings

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Final: Nets 119, Kings 106

Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets have clinched the NBA Playoffs for a second consecutive year following a 119-106 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday. It’s the fifth time the Nets have made the playoffs since moving to Brooklyn eight seasons back.

The playoff berth is also the second time the Nets have earned the post-season spotlight under Sean Marks who he took over as GM four seasons back. All things considered, all bumps along the way, Brooklyn’s turnaround has been extraordinary. Marks (and Kenny Atkinson) started with zero first-round picks and minimal appeal for free agents ... all while Brook Lopez was their biggest trade chip.

Remember: Marks was initially signed to a four-year deal before signing an extension. We’re at four years.

Of course, savvy moves along the way put the Nets in a position to make the postseason last season and ultimately land two of the biggest prizes in free agency in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Although KD played zero games and Irving only played 20, the Nets found a way to weather the storm and squeak their way into the postseason as a seven or eight seed.

Not. Bad.

As for the game itself, the Nets played one of their best all-around team games in the bubble. It started — and ended with Brooklyn’s “Bubble Big 3”.

Caris LeVert looked like the third star Brooklyn (may) want, finishing the night with 22 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals. LeVert started at the the point for the first time in the five games played in the bubble.

Jarrett Allen wasn’t too bad himself, finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. He has recorded a team-high 28 double doubles. Furthermore, the eight assists mark a career-high for Allen.

Allen admitted that he would have liked to stay in the game — he played 35 minutes — when Jacque Vaughn pulled him late in the fourth. He joked (?) that he wanted Vaughn to draw a play at the top of the key so he could try and hit someone backdoor for an assist or two.

And finally, Joe Harris was stellar with 21 points and four rebounds on 8-of-11 shooting; 5-of-6 from three. He’s hit a 3-pointer in 58 straight games — the second best in the game. First? The guy on the other team, Buddy Hield. In four games in Orlando, Harris is shooting 61.2 percent (30-of-49) from the field and 56.0 percent (14-of-25) from distance.

The Nets were in a tight battle in the first quarter, trailing 27-24 entering the second quarter. Then, they got cooking. They turned the three-point deficit into a six-point lead, which then later turned into a 39-23 extended run and a 10-point lead at half. They kept their foot on the gas and went up 16 late in the third quarter.

But, LeVert and Allen picked up four fouls and Vaughn inserted the backups. Sacramento immediately answered with a 12-0 run, cutting the deficit to four. All in the span of a little more than two minutes. Vaughn re-inserted LeVert into the game and quickly knocked down a three just before time expired — giving the Nets a 13-6 run in the final 3:36 of the fourth quarter.

They went up by as many 22 and never looked back.

Rodions Kurucs earned his first start at the power forward, and he certainly didn't disappoint. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. Garrett Temple was the unsung hero of the night with 12 points and two steals — a theme of the night for Brooklyn.

The Nets forced Sacramento to turn the ball over 15 times. Nine of those came off stolen passes. Brooklyn also dished out 30 assists on 44 made field goals, while turning the ball over just nine times. They had 17 turnovers against the Celtics on Wednesday.

The key? They hit 17-of-40 from deep (47 percent). They also turned the ball over nine times while recording nine steals.

Off the bench, Chris Chiozza and Tyler Johnson chipped in 14 points apiece. It was Chiozza’s career high, tying the 14 he scored vs. the Wizards earlier in the week. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot chipped put home 10. The rest of the bench unit didn’t check in until the 1:48 mark of the fourth quarter.

The Nets had two chances to make the playoffs on Friday. If they had lost to the Kings, they still would have made it because the Wizards lost to the Pelicans later Friday. Vaughn said he was happy to get in with a win rather than benefit from another team’s loss.

“Huge amount of grit and togetherness shown to respond from a disappointing outing and answer the way we did,” said Vaughn. “It’s great to punch your own ticket into the playoffs. I joked with the guys: I like my laundry being done, but nothing like doing your own laundry.”

With the Magic loss, Orlando is now the eighth seed, a game and a half behind the Nets with three games to play. Magic play Celtics, Nets and Pelicans; Nets play Clippers, Magic and Blazers. Washington’s loss virtually eliminated the prospect of a play-in tournament in the East.

Can you say, Hello Playoffs?

ALLEN’S MOTIVATION

Jarrett has played very, very well since the beginning of the return-to-play. He’s averaging 16.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and shooting 65.7 percent overall and 85.7 percent from the line (a big improvement).

As you may recall, one of the first things Jacque Vaughn did after taking over from Kenny Atkinson was relegate Allen to the bench in favor of DeAndre Jordan. So was that motivation once Jordan went down and Nicolas Claxton had to sit because of shoulder surgery.

Yes.

“It is a little motivation. I like my role as a starter. I know things don’t always go that way in the NBA but I’m going to keep trying to play to show everybody in the NBA,” said Allen. “I deserve to be a starter.”

“Yeah, he was great,” said Jacque Vaughn. “He was a force for us inside defensively, first of all. Patrolling the rim. They were struggling to get to the rim early in the game, and that was really because of J.A. (Jarrett Allen). And then his ability to compromise their defense on offensive rebounding. So, he was a force tonight, and extremely unselfish. He’s learning how to continue to play with his teammates, what’s available, and just the instincts are sinking in and it’s good to see.”

A GOOD DAY FOR KEVIN DURANT

Kevin Durant was back in California, but the win in Florida gave him a big payday, as Bobby Marks tweeted out right after the game...

NEW CEO JOHN ABBAMONDI SPEAKS TO NETS FANS

On Friday afternoon, new Nets’ CEO John Abbamondi Nets fans for a Zoom call and Q&A with season ticket holders. Kenyon Martin was also supposed to speak, but Chris Carrino said KMart couldn’t make it. There was word that the Nets were planning to name Martin a team ambassador but that didn’t happen. We wrote about the Nets embracing their New Jersey roots, and thus far they’ve crossed a few boxes off since.

We did gather one thing, however!

TRUST THE VET

Jacque Vaughn is now 5-2 as Nets head coach. He’s done a darn good job leading the team on and off the court. Just ask Jamal Crawford...

In fact, with a 5-2 coaching record, Vaughn’s winning percentage is now 71.4 percent. P.J. Carlesimo currently has the highest winning percentage in Nets history, at 64.8 percent. Just sayin’...

YANG GANG

The former “lifelong” Knicks fan —and Democratic presidential candidate—has been making the transition slowly but surely.

FINED!

There is no word on specifics, however; it’s fair to assume it had something to do with the Nets resting Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

For a different perspective, head on over to Sactown Royalty, our Kings sister site on SB Nation.

The Nets will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday at 9:00 PM ET. After two games on YES2, the Nets return to YES for the rest of the way.