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Kevin Durant scores 42 as Nets season-sweep Pacers, 130-113

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ho-hum. Another win, another season sweep and plenty of team records ... and positives.

The Nets defeated the Pacers, 130-113, completing the season-sweep and improving to 43-20 on the season. For the second time in franchise history, Brooklyn sits 23 games above .500. The 2001-02 New Jersey Nets were 51-28 on their way to 52-30 ... and the Finals.

“Six guys in double-figures, 35 assists, only 13 turnovers. They shot 42 percent from the field. That’s pretty much the game for us,” Kevin Durant said. “Outrebounded them too, so when we do that, we’re in good shape. More assists, more rebounds, hold them to a low percentage. That’s a good performance for us.”

It was a glorious offensive performance from Kevin Durant, who finished with 42 points on 16-of-24 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 from deep to go with 10 assists and only two turnovers in 36 minutes. His offensive onslaught blossomed in the third, when he scored 22 points in 10 minutes of play. His performance marked the second 40+ point game of the season for the Nets superstar. He also scored 42 in James Harden’s debut back in January.

“Kevin has done a great job recently handling the ball. Sometimes that takes time when you have been out and trying to find a rhythm. We know how depth he is jumping back in the lineup and making shots, but can he take care of the basketball and put it all together,” Nash said. “It’s been really, really impressive.

“He had 10 assists tonight, two turnovers. [We] played through him a lot in the post, on the elbow, the nail and he was able to pick them a part a little bit. Very, very impressive when you look at his line. What can I say? I got the luxury of coaching Kevin Durant.”

Coming off the bench after missing three games to health and safety protocols, Alize Johnson made quite the statement. Johnson scored 20 points and grabbed 21 rebounds to go with three assists in 32 minutes off the bench.

“I was excited to play and get back here where it all started,” Johnson said. “I felt that when I was coming on the plane and the energy was there from the time I walked in the building. Nash threw me out there and gave me an opportunity, so I definitely wanted to go out there and take advantage of it.”

He became the third Net in history to have a 20/20 game off the bench and the first in the NBA since the 2018-19 season.

“Incredible stat line. He plays with energy and brings it every night. It’s impressive he can collect that many rebounds and score in a role where we don’t run anything for him,” Nash said. “Incredible performance and really happy for him given he wasn’t even in the league a month ago or so. Here he is putting up incredible stat lines.”

The Nets finished with six players in double-figures, including all of their starters. Jeff Green finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes of play. Joe Harris had 14 points and three rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting from the field.

Caris LeVert shined against his former team, posting a team-high 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting from the floor and 5-of-9 from deep. With the loss, Indiana falls to 29-33 on the season, fighting for playoff seeding.

The Nets opened up 6-of-9 from the field with all of their starters scoring in the opening minutes of the contest. Brooklyn passed the ball around the perimeter and looked for their best looks, targeting the inside against the small-ball lineup of the Pacers. With the score knotted up at 20, Green, who scored 12 points in the first, single-handily paved a 7-0 run for Brooklyn to put them up 27-20 with 3:16 remaining, which included another hammer from the 34-year-old.

Alize Johnson provided the Nets with some good minutes in the first frame, scoring eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field in seven minutes off the bench. The Nets headed into the second nursing a 35-28 lead.

On the other side, it was evident early LeVert had the contest circled on his calendar, putting the Pacers on his back. The former Net scored 12 of Indiana’s 28 first-quarter points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from deep - a category LeVert has struggled to find consistency this season.

Brooklyn quickly forged an 11-0 run to grow their lead to 16 with 9:05 remaining in the second, leaving Indiana to call an early timeout. The Pacers took a hard hit early, ruling Brogdon out for the remainder of the game with a sore hamstring and the Nets kept rolling.

The short-handed Pacers struggled to find consistency playing from behind while the Nets had everything working aside from their 3-point shooting (4-of-18). Despite not shooting the deep ball well, Brooklyn hit the break with a commanding 66-52 lead.

Brooklyn was the sharper team in the first two frames. While Durant was his usual self, posting 12 points on 5-of-9 from the field and a baseline slam.

Green followed, cementing solid numbers in the first half but Alize Johnson served as the difference-maker, snagging 14 boards - a new high for any Net in a half this season and tied for the most rebounds by a Net off the bench in a single half since 1996-97. Outside of individual production, Brooklyn displayed stellar ball movement, dishing 17 assists, six of which came from the hands of Durant.

The Pacers came out of the locker room on a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits but that didn’t last long. Brooklyn regained their pace as the 3-ball started falling early, hitting four of their first five deep balls - all coming from different Nets.

The rest of the third was the Durant takeover show. The Nets superstar displayed all of his powers, picking and choosing his spots to shoot from throughout the frame. Durant scored 22 points alone in the third in 10 minutes - the most points scored in a quarter this season.

Durant checked out of the third with 2:00 minutes remaining but the damage was done. The Nets concluded the third frame with a commanding 111-93 lead backed by a 45-point quarter - the highest-scoring period of the season resulting in Brooklyn scoring 100+ points through three frames for the ninth time this season (franchise record).

However, Indiana had no plans of letting the game away from them, chipping a 9-0 run but faced another injury blow in the opening minutes of the fourth frame. JaKarr Sampson received a hard right elbow to the back of his head from Griffin on a rebound attempt and was helped to the locker room.

Brooklyn subbed Durant and Green back into the game with eight minutes remaining to help patch Indiana’s small-ball run but Indiana kept erasing the deficit, cutting it to seven with six minutes remaining.

“We were just relaxed a tad bit, being up 20 and having that good third quarter we did, it’s natural for us to relax. To be a great team, you have to be dominant and I think this was a good lesson for us to keep our foot gas,” Durant said. “In that fourth quarter, I think we did a good job of not panicking when they cut it to seven and we made the right plays.

“We definitely want to finish games better and start the fourth quarter better if we are up 20 points.”

The Nets answered and closed out the game with a 17-point victory. There was no mercy.

Playoff Picture

With the Nets win and the Bucks loss to the Rockets (who got 50 points from Kevin Porter Jr.), Brooklyn is now four and a half games up on Milwaukee with nine to go. And so it seems that the Nets are likely to finish with either the first or second seed in the East. They’ve got a one and a half game lead over the 76ers but Philly holds the tie-breaker.

If that happens, the Nets will wind up playing one of the two teams that emerge from the play-in tournament. As of now, the tournament would comprise the Heat, Hornets, Pacers and Wizards. The Nets final game is May 16. The play-in tournament will take place May 18-21 and the playoffs a day later.

The Nets have now clinched homecourt in the first round and a top 4 seed.

What’s next

The Nets will return to the Barclays Center Friday when the team hosts the Portland Trail Blazers. The game is set to tip at 8:00 PM ET and is one of four remaining home games for Brooklyn in the home stretch of the regular season.

“Tough stretch when we are on the road a lot. I think we’re home seven days from this 31-day period. It’s important for us to stay focused and do everything we can to get better, to win games and prepare for the playoffs. There’s a lot going on this time of year and I think the remaining focus is having our eye on the bigger picture is important but things change from day to day,” Nash said. “We really have to take it moment by moment and be prepared to adapt and adjust daily and still perform.

“Tomorrow will be a different challenge. We’ll see who is available tomorrow and how it all looks against a really good Portland team and try to put in a good performance.”

For a different perspective on Thursday’s game, check out Indy Cornrows - our sister site covering the Indiana Pacers.