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Nets compete for second seed as they complete season vs. Cavaliers

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

As Steve Nash said, it wasn’t a great game, in part because the “Big Three” scored only 39 points with Kyrie Irving the only who came close to his season stats. But there are no separate columns for “disappointing wins” or “moral victories” and the Nets came away with a big win over Chicago and enter the final regular season game still the second seed. A win tonight over the Cavaliers at Barclays Center would secure that. The Bucks, meanwhile, are also on the back end of a back-to-back facing the Bulls in Chicago. More on the permutations later.

The Cavaliers, on the other hand, have been playing out the string for a long time. They are tied for the fifth worst record in the league. They’re also 1-9 in last 10. While they have some intriguing young players led by ex-Net Jarrett Allen, their inability to attract stars like LeBron James or retain stars like Kyrie Irving continues to keep them down and out. We know the feeling ... or at least can recall it.

Where to follow the game

It’s the YES Network with no national coverage. WFAN on radio, 101.9 FM. Tip after 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Look for us post-game on the NetsDaily Clubhouse.

Injuries

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving are available. Joe Harris (gluteal strain injury) who missed his first game Saturday looks out for Sunday.. Spencer Dinwiddie (knee) and Chris Chiozza (hand) are still out.

For the Cavs, Kevin Love (rest) is out ... and may have played his last game in Cleveland as rumors of a buyout once again circulate. Two other Cavs bigs, Lamar Stevens and Isaiah Hartenstein, are in the concussion protocol. It’s always possible that injury report could expand, this being the last game of the season.

The game

Yes, the Cavaliers have won both previous contests vs. the Nets, but now, it’s about the seeding. As we’ve noted, the Nets strategy is getting the second seed should be “just win.” They win tonight and it won’t matter what Milwaukee does in their game against the lowly Bulls, which starts an hour later. The Bucks took care of business last night, easily dispatching the Jimmy Butler-less Heat, 122-108, in Milwaukee.

So expect the “Big Three” to play bigger minutes in a back-to-back. The season-ending back-to-back is no doubt the easiest of the season. It’s at home, requiring no travel, and the start times of the two games are separated by 31 hours, not the usual 24. Moreover, the Nets will have the next six days off as they and everyone else await the result of the play-in tournament for teams that end the regular season seeded Nos. 7 through 10.

If they finish second, the play-in tournament of course will attract a lot more attention at the HSS Training Center. Their opponent will come out of the foursome of Boston, Charlotte, Washington and Indiana. And as of now —and this is unlikely to change — if the Nets finish third, they’ll face defending Eastern Conference champ Heat starting May 22. Chances of a Nets-Knicks first round are close to, but not quite, dead.

There’s also some milestones available tonight. A win would put the Nets 24 games above .500. That’s never happened before. Their winning percentage, already a franchise record, would rise to .667. They also have a chance to be finish the season with the best offensive rating in NBA history. It’s currently 117.2 per 100 possessions, comfortably above the previous record of 115.9, set by the Mavericks last season.

Kyrie Irving has a chance to become the ninth player in NBA history to put up a 50/40/90 season. (His coach, Steve Nash, did it four times.) Going into the game, Irving is at 50.4/39.7/92.2. It’s our understanding that there’s no rounding so Irving would have get that middle number up to 40.0 to qualify.

And a triple-double by James Harden tonight would be his 13th and break a tie with Jason Kidd for most trip dubs in a season by a Nets player. Kidd career record for 3-pointers, 813, looked shaky not long ago as Joe Harris continued to rack them up, but Harris injury messed up that plan. He currently has 801. Harris is still No. 1 in 3-point shooting. at 47.5 percent, just ahead of Marcus Morris at 47.3 and Bobby Portis at 47.1. If he wins out, it will be the second time in the last three years that Harris has led the league.

This season, Harris also surpassed Drazen Petrovic for the highest 3-point shooting percentage in Nets history. Harris ends his fifth season in Brooklyn at 44.1 percent. Petrovic who played three years in New Jersey finished up at 43.7 percent.

Good luck to all.

Player to watch: Jarrett Allen

Duh. This is the first time since the James Harden trade sent Allen to Cleveland that he’ll be facing the team that drafted him, the team that had high hopes for him as their long term center.

Since joining the Cavs, he’s been seen as Cleveland’s long term hope as well, although he will be a restricted free agent come August. The Nets, looking for flexibility, declined to give Allen a long-term extension prior to the start of the season in December. He reportedly turned down $15 million a year.

His numbers as a Cavalier are slightly better than they were in Brooklyn, but remember, those numbers were skewed a bit since JA only started five of the 12 games he played as Net earlier this season. DeAndre Jordan started the others. Not to mention that the Cavaliers decided to buy out Andre Drummond to make room for Allen as the starter, giving him more opportunities. Just sayin’.

He’s likely to finish the season averaging a double-double, 12.9 points and 10.0 rebounds, a first for him along with 1.4 blocks per game. And yes, he’s just 23 years old. Where might he wind up next season? Cleveland can of course give him more money and a longer contract or match whatever deal he gets elsewhere. So it’s likely he’s not moving.

And how much would he cost the Cavs (and what he have cost the Nets if he had stayed with them?) On Sunday, veteran sports columnist Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer suggested a range in his look at the futures of Allen, Collin Sexton and Kevin Love...

I talked to an agent who could picture Allen’s talks starting at $100 million for five years and going up — perhaps to $125 million, $25 million a year. It’s not a maximum deal, but it’s close.

Now you know why the Nets decided to wait on Allen back in December.

From the Vault

Continuing with the JA theme, a compilation of all his blocks from last year...

It should be fun watching him go up against Kevin Durant and Nic Claxton.

More reading: Fear the Sword