The Brooklyn Nets have controlled their fate heading into Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays. After skimming by their foreseeable Play-In Tournament opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday night, a must-win Sunday night will officially lock the Nets into the 7-seed.
“Every game that we play, I feel like it’s a must-win. We want to give our best effort,” said Kyrie Irving. “With this Play-In Tournament or Play-In idea, it’s been a little more pressure. That’s part of being in the NBA and being prepared daily for these types of moments. 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.”
Although Brooklyn is tied record-wise with Cleveland, the team is sitting in the 7-seed currently due to the tiebreaker they hold vs the Cavs and Hawks but not the Hornets. The win against the Cavs Friday night sealed a 3-1 season-series between the two teams.
“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.
A win against the Pacers on Sunday will give the Nets homecourt advantage in the 7-8 Play-In contest Tuesday night. Brooklyn is 19-21 at Barclays Center this season. The winner of the 7-8 Play-In game will be the 7-seed and will likely face the reigning champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
“That’s what we’re playing for: to play at home in the Play-In game,” Nash said. “We definitely are aiming to get prepared for Sunday and win the game.”
If Brooklyn locks up the 7-seed with a win against the Pacers on Sunday, this is what the Nets' path in the postseason will likely look like. At the time of this writing, the Bucks are holding a 1.0 game lead over the 3-seed Boston Celtics and the 4-seed, Philadelphia 76ers. The 1-seed Miami Heat holds a comfortable 2.0 game lead over the Bucks.
Throughout the Eastern Conference, there were conversations to be had about whether the seeding in the upper half will be impacted by the Nets getting set in the Play-In Tournament. In other words, would any top-seeded team in the East tank in the standings to try to avoid Brooklyn in the first round.
“I don’t believe teams are doing that,” said Durant on teams ducking a first-round series against the Nets. “I think a lot of teams are trying to make sure their guys are healthy going into the Playoffs. I don’t think they’re really worried about us, to be honest. We just focus on what we do and no matter who we play, we just play our game.”
On the other side, the Nets head coach explained how his players aren’t that carefully looking at their projected first-round opponents either. The main focus has been buckling down on improving as a team.
“Not really,” said Nash on who the team might match up against in the first round. “We’re so focused on trying to improve in a short period of time and get better every day that we’re not in a position to start worrying about who, what, when. We just got to try to win this game on Sunday and the Play-In game on Tuesday.”
Brooklyn will be without Goran Dragic (health and safety protocols) against the Pacers Sunday afternoon. The Nets head coach said Dragic is back in NY but is still in the league’s health and safety protocols. Seth Curry (left ankle soreness) is listed as probable. The Nets have won the last six games against the Pacers.
“It feels good to be in this position,” said Irving on being a win away from locking up the 7-seed. “Hard-fought, and we want to take it a day at a time and get prepared for Indiana coming Sunday, have some good results there, get better that day, and then get ready for Tuesday.”