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Fate Controlled: Nets take sole possession of 7-seed, beating Cavs, 118-107

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets might have blown a 17-point lead but their sense of urgency kicked in late and the team put the game away when it mattered most, at the end.

“Every game that we play, I feel like it’s a must-win. We want to give our best effort,” said Kyrie Irving. “So we just want to come here with that same mentality that, ‘hey, let’s put our best foot forward and put our best effort out there’... So we feel good about it.”

With serious Play-In Tournament implications on the line, The Nets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 118-107, in front of a record crowd of 18,169 at Barclays Center. The win puts Brooklyn in sole possession of the 7-seed, and in further control of their own destiny ahead of Sunday’s regular-season finale. The Nets own the tiebreaker over the Cavaliers.

“It’s good. A win on Sunday, we’ll have them again [Cavaliers (likely)] on Tuesday. We just got to lock in and take care of the Pacers,” said Bruce Brown on Brooklyn taking the 7-seed.

Here’s the standings. The Nets are guaranteed the 7/8 game and if they win Sundays vs. Indiana, they’ll play Tuesday at Barclays Center with the opponent TBA. Everything should be settled by late afternoon Sunday...

“We as coaches, we’re happy to win the game in any way it takes but we also want to get better. We gave up a lot of points in the second and third quarter,” said Steve Nash on the 118-107 win Friday night. “We’ll look at ways we can improve.”

Kevin Durant finished a game-high 36 points (11-of-20 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range) to pair with five boards, five assists, a steal, two blocks, and five turnovers in 41 minutes. Kyrie Irving, who struggled with his shot, concluded with 18 points (7-of-22 shooting from the field and only 1-of-7 shooting from behind the arc), six rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two turnovers in 39 minutes.

It was a balanced scoring effort outside of the stars. Bruce Brown earned his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 boards to go with a season-high eight assists, a steal, and a career-high four blocks in 40 minutes.

“Yeah, I didn’t think he deserved a triple-double tonight,” joked Kevin Durant. “Because he talked about it—we didn’t know and he’s like, ‘Yo, I need two more assists.’ I’m like, ‘You’re not getting it tonight. You shouldn’t have said nothing.’ We all love how Bruce has been playing lately. At this point, I expect him to come out here and play well now.”

Andre Drummond finished with an aggressive double-double of 15 points and 12 boards, followed by Seth Curry with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting overall and 2-of-6 shooting from 3-Point range in 29 minutes. Brooklyn’s bench compiled 19 points, led by Kessler Edwards with seven. The Nets head coach kept a tight eight-man rotation throughout the contest.

“Must-win game,” said Nash on the tight rotation. “No Goran [Dragic]. We kept it at eight and tried to be tight with it.”

The Nets went with Irving, Curry, Durant, Brown, and Drummond to open the contest. Brooklyn got good looks and open shots early through their spacing, but Cleveland got to the paint to fuel their offense. After the dust cleared in the opening minutes, the Nets held an 11-10 lead with 6:27 left in the first. And then Durant got going.

Out of the timeout, Kessler Edwards and Nic Claxton — the first substitutions off the bench — provided key defense to spark an 11-0 run. Durant hit a series of jumpers — one of them a one-legged mid-ranger — and a nifty no-look pass to Claxton for the dunk to stamp an 11-0 burst. The red-hot offense (56.5 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from three) flowed till the final buzzer of the frame behind Durant. The Nets superstar ended with 16 points in the quarter while Brooklyn dished 10 assists on 13 made shots to end the period on an extended 23-9 run. At the end of one, the Nets led 34-19. The 19 points scored by the Cavaliers were the fewest points allowed by the Nets in the first quarter this season.

Cleveland was chipping away at the double-digit deficit and came close to getting over the hump but Brooklyn was able to maintain an 11-point lead in the four minutes Durant was on the bench to start the second quarter. The Nets went cold and missed seven straights shots while the Cavaliers were slowly clawing away at the deficit behind the play of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. The Cavaliers sliced the Nets' lead to six entering the final minutes of the first half. Brooklyn’s urgency kicked in to top off the second but the team couldn’t grab another double-digit lead. At the break, the Nets held a 62-54 lead.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Durant’s 20th 20-point half of the season concluded with 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 shooting from 3-point range. He also went a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. Other than Durant, Irving tallied 11 points in 19 minutes of play while the bench compiled 10 points to add insurance on the halftime advantage.

The Cavaliers remained in striking distance throughout the third quarter with the Nets barely grasping their game-long lead. At the 3:28 mark of the third, Brooklyn officially blew their 17-point lead, and Cleveland, behind the play of their second unit, stole their first lead of the night (82-81). The scoring drought for Brooklyn extended to five minutes, and Cleveland’s scoring run peaked at 11-0 resulting in the Cavs taking a five-point lead (88-83) into the fourth quarter.

“They got out in transition. They got easy buckets. They started hitting threes. K-Love got involved. Darius [Garland] got cooking,” said Brown on the Cavaliers’ play in the second and third quarters. “We just had to play defense.”

The fourth quarter breather for Durant was cut short, the superstar subbing back into the game with 10:28 left. Less than two minutes later (8:51), his 25-foot pull-up triple put the Nets back up 95-93. The three sparked a 17-6 scoring run that ballooned Brooklyn’s advantage to 13 (112-99) with 3:39 left. Holding an 18-point lead with 1:18 left, Nash cleared his bench to finish out the contest.

“That is the luxury of having one of the all-time great players. He’s been there before. He’s got the skill and the poise to do it,” said Nash on Durant closing out the win for the Nets. “That’s probably the most obvious answer I can give.”

The Film Room

The Nets entered Friday’s game with both the 7-seed and control of their play-in tournament destiny on the line. Win... and the Nets would come one step closer to earning themselves homecourt advantage for Tuesday’s play-in opener—a game that would more than likely be against the very same Cavaliers team they were playing that night.

So who else would the Nets turn to but Kevin Durant in a do-or-die game?

KD came out the gates with a passion, erupting 61% of his total points in the first half. Durant’s scoring was stuck on automatic, as he paid homage to his uber-smooth one-legged three-point against Atlanta with a similarly graceful shot from the free-throw line extended.

Later in the third, he rose for the very same shot—a statuesque jumper that harkens back to Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeaway. Is it possible we’re looking at the emergence of a trademarked move for KD? Something to watch!

Durant didn’t just detonate on jumpers; he also pressured the cup, a welcomed sight for a Nets team that ranks within the bottom-5 in rim frequency since the All-Star break. Kyrie Irving’s struggles as a rim pressure have been well chronicled by our own Brian Fleurantin, who wrote on Tuesday that Irving had taken just 11 shots in a five-game span, so it’s always a bonus when Durant—also averaging a career-low in at-rim shots—gets the rim for easy ones.

And when the Cavaliers went on the second-half run in the third, guess who answered the call with a transition pull-up three?

On a night when his co-star didn’t have it, Kevin Durant took full control of the moment when his Nets needed him most. We’ve said it before but cherish this era, Nets fans. It’ll be a while until this franchise boasts a player as talented as the Slim Reaper.

Sean Marks drops by The Block

The Brooklyn Brigade is now nationally known, but known best by the players and fans. Pre-game, Sean Marks dropped by to thank the Brigade and note one big change he’s seen in six years...

“Six years ago, you couldn’t see a Brooklyn hat anywhere in MSG. Now, they can’t show anywhere on the JumboTron without seeing a Brooklyn hat. That just shows what you have done,” said the Nets GM.

Milestone Watch

Kevin Durant (36 points) has recorded his 25th 30-point game of the season, tying Vince Carter’s Nets NBA record for 30-point games in a season. Carter posted 25 30-point games in the 2006-07 season.

Durant logged his 20th 20-point half of the season. All other Nets have combined for 22 20-point halves this season.

The Cavs’ 19 points in the first quarter are the fewest Brooklyn has allowed in a first quarter this season.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

Detroit Pistons v Indiana Pacers Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets will play their regular season finale on Sunday, April 10 when the team hosts the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. The game is slated to tip at 3:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Friday night’s game, check out Fear The Sword — our sister site covering the Cleveland Cavaliers.