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Nets close out regular season at home vs. Pacers

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Atlanta Hawks v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Job’s real simple today. After beating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets find themselves in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. Even if they lose, they might still be able to hold on to seventh. However, forget all that. Handle your business, win, and lock in seventh place for the play in at Barclays on Tuesday.

It’s the last day of the year for the Indiana Pacers, and it’s been a rocky return to Indy for Rick Carlisle. They played yesterday afternoon against the Philadelphia 76ers, and lost by 13 points. The L was their ninth in a row and the clock is ticking on them to start their vacation.

Where to follow the game

YES Network and ESPN on TV. The ESPN coverage will be blacked out in the New York area. WFAN on radio. Daytime affair so we getting started after 3:30 p.m.

Injuries

Joe Harris and Ben Simmons are out. Goran Dragic is back in New York, but not out of COVID protocols. Seth Curry is listed as probable. Kessler Edwards has signed a standard NBA deal, the Nets announced Sunday morning.

And ICYMI, the Nets posted this video overnight of Saturday’s practice. It shows, among other things, Ben Simmons doing what’s been called “light on-court workouts.” He even hits a three...

TJ Warren, Myles Turner, Ricky Rubio, Nate Hinton, and Chris Duarte are out. Malcolm Brogdon, Jalen Smith, and Goga Bitadze will likely be out today as well.

Indiana will be playing the back end of a back-to-back. They lost to the 76ers in Philly Saturday night, 133-120.

The game

Brooklyn took game one in October and game two in January.

For Indy, Tyrese Haliburton will be key to their future. Over at Indy Cornrows, Mark Schindler wrote about the team’s new direction and said:

While he may never fully be a “true primary,” I simply couldn’t care less. He is a straight up very good basketball player, and sometimes that’s all the nuance you need. Haliburton is capable of scaling incredibly well within multiple roles and still impacting the game; he will undoubtedly get primary reps in Indiana, but that’s part of the point of a rebuild. Identifying what you do and don’t have as a team, assessing how to get to your organizational goals, and building towards that.

Assuming Turner is still on the club next season, Indy has a nice nucleus to build around.

This is the first game of the day. For Nets purposes, we’ll be keeping an eye on:

Milwaukee Bucks at Charlotte Hornets

Atlanta Hawks at Houston Rockets

Boston Celtics at Memphis Grizzlies

It’s shaping up to be a wild last day of the regular season. With all four games starting around 3:30 p.m. ET, the 7 through 10 seeds should be set by 6 p.m. The top of the East won’t be settled till about 10:00 p.m. ET.

The Pacers don’t get to the free throw line much, which is a godsend for a Nets team that tends to send opponents to the line too much. For the play in and beyond, it’s something they’re going to have to clean up.

Turnovers will be crucial in this afternoon’s game. Since the break, the Pacers are 27th in turnover rate while the Nets are 25th. When Brooklyn is down bad, they get sloppy with the ball and become stagnant on offense. With this game being as important as it is, they need to make sure they handle business early. The Pacers are on the back leg of a season-ending back-to-back and have nothing to play for. It’s up to them to kickstart Indiana’s vacation.

Now that Kessler Edwards is a full fledged member of the rotation, he’ll get some more opportunities to make a name for himself and build confidence as the stakes get higher. Edwards gives the Nets some more size at the wing position and although he hasn’t cashed in on many of his open threes recently, he should keep firing at will.

Not having Turner guarding the paint will do wonders for the Nets. Indy has allowed the second most shots in the restricted area following the All Star Break and have allowed teams to make 68 percent of those shots, 11th highest. The Pacers are on a b2b and the Nets have been home all week. They should look to press the issue early and often against a tired team playing out the string.

The Nets have been using Kevin Durant at center this week, and it’s a good adjustment from Steve Nash and the coaching staff. Durant is difficult to handle on a regular basis, and KD at center unlocks an entire new universe for the Nets. With the Nets needing wins to secure their play in spot, they’ve put some more on Durant’s shoulders, and he’s stood tall like he always does. For Brooklyn, they hope to jump out to a huge lead so they can sneak KD some rest before the play in-game. The same can also be said for Bruce Brown, who has energized and revitalized this team after they were in the mud for much of January and February.

Player to watch: Buddy Hield

Here’s somebody that might draw some attention this summer. Since coming over from the Kings, Hield has averaged around 18 points on a .453/.362/.886 shooting split. His three point shooting has decreased for four consecutive seasons, but he’s dealt with a lot of roster turmoil around him. For the Nets, they can’t afford to be lax in guarding the three point line or off balance in any way. It’s going to take a great effort to seal the win and lock up the seventh seed.

Kyrie Irving has one more game to find his rhythm before the play in. He got to the paint a bit more on Friday night, but he still shot 7-of-22 from the field. You can almost live with a poor shooting night if Irving is attacking from all angles and getting downhill pressure. Irving is such a gifted player that even when he’s not scoring, he can still contribute and set the tempo for the team. The Nets will really take off once Irving regains his shot, but for now, they can dance with what he’s bringing to the party.

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More reading: Indy Cornrows