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Nets officially and finally clinch 7-seed, defeating Pacers in season finale, 134-126

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Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

On to the Play-In Tournament.

The Brooklyn Nets got the job done, defeating the Indiana Pacers, 134-126, in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,967. The Nets have clinched the 7-seed with the regular season finale victory over the Pacers, and will host the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night at Barclays Center. A win and they face the No. 2 seed, the Boston Celtics. A loss and they face the winner of the 9/10 game between the Hawks and Hornets. (YES Network won’t have coverage in the Play-In, but will return if the Nets get into the playoffs.)

“It’s great. The guys got it done,” said Steve Nash on the 134-126 win Sunday afternoon. “We got up to seventh. We were in 10th a week ago. We had to weather a lot for our guys to get here and earn the opportunity to play for seventh. Today, getting the job done regardless of how, that’s all that matters.”

Here’s the schedule...

“Just go play. Can’t put too much pressure on yourself. You understand how important the [Play-In] game is already,” said Kevin Durant looking ahead to Tuesday’s Play-In game. “The best thing to do is just play free, stick to the game plan, and trust your teammates. That’s usually how you approach these games. We’ll see what happens.”

It was a balanced scoring effort with each Net starter finishing in double-figures. Kyrie Irving had a big second half performance to finish with 35 points (15-of-20 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range) to go with seven boards, five assists, a steal, and three turnovers in 40 minutes of play.

Durant notched his single season-high fourth triple-double — 20 points, 10 rebounds, and a career-high 16 assists in a team-high 41 minutes. The 16 assists were also the season high for the Nets, tying James Harden. Durant struggled with his shot, going 5-of-17 from the field and 0-of-6 from 3-point range. He also coughed up a team-high six turnovers in the win.

Bruce Brown had another strong showing, tallying 21 points, seven boards, three assists, three steals, two blocks, and three turnovers in 38 minutes. Andre Drummond collected his 11th double-double as a Net with 20 points and 13 boards in 20 minutes. Kessler Edwards, fresh off putting pen to paper on a standard NBA contract, finished with 10 points in his 23rd start of the season.

The Nets opened their regular-season finale with Irving, Durant, Edwards, Brown and Drummond. Brooklyn’s sense of urgency to win the game was evident from the opening tip. Brooklyn jumped out to an 8-0 lead resulting in Rick Carlisle calling a timeout with 10:11 left in the first.

Although the Nets had success getting to the rim throughout the period, they pulled the foot off the gas midway through the first. The Nets coughed up pairs of careless turnovers (four) that sparked the Pacers to get back within striking distance. Nic Claxton and Patty Mills were the team’s first reserves off the bench. The young big helped the Nets grow their lead to double-digits.

Indiana forged a 7-0 run but Brooklyn countered with their own 7-0 run to end the quarter with an Irving (10 points) elliptical rainbow jumper along the baseline at the buzzer for a 12-point lead (41-29). More importantly, 30 of the 41 points were scored in the paint, which resulted in Brooklyn ending the first with 75.0 percent shooting from the field. The biggest takeaway from the opening quarter was the team shooting 18-of-24 from the field with Durant going 0-of-5 from the field.

The scorching hot offense carried over into the second. Brooklyn was able to attack the rim with ease and after a nifty 15-foot turnaround fadeaway by Thomas, the Nets went up 51-35 with 8:34 left. The Pacers continued to look confused defensively, especially defending the driving lanes and the middle of the floor.

Although Durant went 1-for-6 to total 10 points at the break, Brooklyn was able to pour in 76 points to take a 16-point lead (76-60) at halftime. The Nets superstar dished nine assists in the first half — which marked a career-high for most assists in any half. Overall, the Nets pounded in 46 points in the paint to boost their 69.0 percent shooting from the field. Drummond had a double-double of 18 points and 10 boards in the first half.

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Pacers stormed back in the third quarter off their hot deep shooting. Indiana forged a 19-4 run to slice the Nets lead to just a single point (78-77) with 8:33 left in the period. Durant finally got a string of shots to fall to get Brooklyn back on track, but the defensive miscues rolled on and the Pacers knotted up the contest at 91 with three minutes to go in the quarter. Brooklyn ended the third on a 12-3 burst to take a 103-94 lead into the fourth.

“The game of basketball is a game of runs. They did what they were supposed to do. They played hard and they made shots. Nothing we can do about that,” said Drummond on the Pacers comeback in the second half. “We try to slow them down as much as we can and we made more shots than they did.”

The final sense of urgency kicked in for Brooklyn in the fourth. Behind the offensive play of Irving, the Nets outscored the Pacers in an 11-2 run but Indiana didn’t go away easily. Indiana hit the final five minutes of play trailing by only seven points. The Pacers remained within striking distance through points off the Nets’ turnovers and hit the final minute of play trailing 132-124. Brooklyn was able to hold on and clinch the 7-seed.

“It’s been a lot for our group. We’ve had a lot of different changes and things happening to us since the trade. We stayed with it. We all have one goal in mind and we saw it through. We finished out the year great,” Drummond said.

The Film Room

Great players impact the game on off-nights.

Kevin Durant did not have his best performance on Sunday. His jumper wasn’t hitting with the same near-automatic efficiency he normally operates with. Defensively, Durant was missing assignments and failing to provide the secondary rim protection he’s typically capable of. He even let T.J. McConnell get by him on a drive in the third quarter.

Still, Durant’s passing was something special on Sunday. Playmaking has been something of a needed commodity around these parts since the James Harden trade, so it was a welcomed sight to see KD take on the role of lead initiator in the final game of the regular season.

“PG from PG County,” said Kyrie Irving about his 7/11 teammate. “I told him that in in the locker room just to get a good laugh out of him. But when he’s a playmaker like that, he’s allowing the game to come to him. As you see, he didn’t particularly shoot the ball as well as he wanted to tonight, but when you have 16 assists and 10 rebounds, I mean, he had another triple double night. So it just shows you how special he is when he allows the game to just flow.”

Durant and Andre Drummond connected for an empty-side pick-and-roll early—a lethal action for Brooklyn as removes pulls away help defenders—allowing for Durant and Drummond to play two-on-two. When Isaiah Jackson leaves his feet due to the threat of Durant’s pull-up midranger, KD laces a gorgeous bounce pass to Drummond on the role for the uncontested dunk.

“For the most part, I thought I did a good job of finding guys and playing the game a little slower and seeing things develop before they actually do,” said Durant. “And so I think it was good for me to get that type of coverage early in the season, which is gonna prepare me for what’s about to happen.”

In the second quarter, that duo connected once more in the two-man game—this time with a middle pick-and-roll. The Pacers attempt to switch on the fly but Oshae Brissett gets stuck behind the play and Durant squeaks in another lovely bounce pass to Drummond once more.

Durant the newly contracted Kessler Edwards even connected for some give-and-go action. Edwards, mostly a standstill shooting specialist, does a great job vacating the area and beelining it to the rim after giving up the rock to Durant, and KD makes an underratedly savvy pass to the cutting rookie.

“He just has a poise about 14 years in this league,” said Kyrie Irving. “He’s seen almost everything, all the adjustments. So nights like tonight happened for him because he just plays the game the right way.”

Milestone Watch

Kevin Durant (20 points, 10 rebounds, career-high 16 assists) recorded his fourth triple-double of the season and 16th of his career. The four this year is a single-season career-high for triple-doubles for KD. However, he did not record his 26th game of 25+ points on Sunday, leaving him tied with Vince Carter for the most such games in a season at 25. Durant ended his shortened season averaging 29.9 points a game, his highest average since he put up 32.0 points in 2013-14 with the Warriors.

The Nets became the fourth team in NBA history with a losing record at home (20-21) and a winning record on the road (24-17). However, they are the third team in three years to do so. Their 44 wins were the 10th best in Nets franchise history.

Both Nets superstars flirted with but ultimately didn’t make the 50/40/90 club (and wouldn’t have qualified anyway.) KD wound up at 52/38/91 in 55 games while Kyrie finished at 47/41/92 in 28.

Patty Mills finished the season with 227 3-point goals, second in franchise history behind D’Angelo Russell’s 234. Mills finished the season shooting an even 40 percent from deep. In his last three games, he seemed to break out of a slump, hitting 9-of-17 from deep. The 227 threes were far and away his career best, surpassing the 161 he hit last season in San Antonio.

Draft order TBD

Nets, Bucks and Spurs finish tied for 23rd, 24th and 25th picks in draft. In next few days, there will be a drawing to determine precise order. Nets have option to delay the pick, acquired in the Philly trade, till 2023. The draft will take place on June 23 at Barclays Center.

Brooklyn Brigade honored

Before the season finale, on Fan Appreciation Day at Barclays Center, the ball delivery honors went to the Brooklyn Brigade and its founder, Bobby Edemeka of Brooklyn. NY.

The real MVP!

Nets attendance at all-time high in Brooklyn

With the Nets NBA season complete, ESPN reports the team averaged 17,354 per game, or 97.9 percent of the Barclays Center capacity. That percentage, aided by some late season standing room sales, ranks ninth in the league. The raw number ranks 13th. In 2016-17, Sean Marks first year at the helm, the Nets ranked 25th in percentage at 85.2 percent and 28th in raw numbers at 15,429.

More importantly, the percentage and the raw numbers are both the best the team averaged since moving to Brooklyn in 2012-13.

Kessler Edwards signed, but not his two-way replacement

The Nets officially announced the signing of Kessler Edwards to a two-year minimum deal with the second year a team option, per Michael Scotto of Hoopshype. The first year amounts to Sunday’s regular season finale and post-season, the second next season.

Elevating Edwards created a two-way vacancy, but with the regular season now ended, the Nets decided not to fill it. Sunday was the deadline. Adding a two-way even this late would have given the team restricted free agency rights to the newly signed two-way.

Sunday’s game marked the end of the Nets’ other two-way deal, David Duke Jr., Duke will now be an RFA in the summer.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

NBA: Brooklyn Nets vs Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It’s time for the Brooklyn Nets to fight their way into the postseason.

The Nets will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, April 12 at Barclays Center. The winner of the 7/8 Play-In Tournament game will advance to the first round of the NBA Playoffs as the 7-seed. The loser will play the winner of the 9/10 game, with that winner advancing to the playoffs as the 8-seed.

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