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How Nets are approaching play-in matchup with Cavaliers

The Nets righted their itemizing ship down the stretch. But now comes the play-in event, extra pressure-packed than the playoffs. 

“It’s great. Best time of year,” Steve Nash mentioned. “Best time of year for sure.” 

Brooklyn’s Tuesday play-in tilt in opposition to the visiting Cavaliers (7 p.m. TNT) is actually like a Game 6 of a seven-game sequence when you’ve gotten a 3-2 lead. And that’s precisely how Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the remainder of the Nets are treating it. There’s a margin for error, however the Nets definitely don’t need to use it. 

“Let’s get it on,” mentioned Irving, channeling Marvin Gaye. “This is a special time of the year going against a team like the Cavaliers. … They’re going to make adjustments, we’re going to make adjustments and it’s going to be an all-out battle.” 

After simply beating Cleveland 118-107 on Friday, the Nets must face the identical Cavs crew once more with a victory clinching the seventh seed, and a first-round playoff date in opposition to Boston. A loss units up the daunting prospect of going through the Hawks-Hornets winner for the No. 8 seed, and a date with No. 1 Miami. 

In essence, excessive drama. 

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving
Corey Sipkin

“Number one, I think somebody’s in the back room hip-hip-hooraying whoever created the tournament, because last year you get Steph [Curry] and LeBron [James]. This year you get me and KD going against the Cavs in the play-in game,” Irving mentioned. “It feels like one of those Game 6s, Game 7s where it’s a must-win, and … it’s not going to depend on anything other than will, skill, how well you’re prepared.” 

Brooklyn’s preparation has been an arduous, wildly inconsistent season that’s seen COVID, trades, accidents and Irving being ineligible a lot of the season. They sat tenth within the Eastern Conference only a week in the past however closed with 4 straight to climb into seventh. But the job is nowhere close to accomplished. 

Yes, Brooklyn (44-38) took three of 4 from Cleveland, together with the final meeting. But even when shot-blocking middle Jarrett Allen (finger) can’t play in opposition to his previous crew, combo guard Darius Garland is an electrical expertise. 

“He’s cold,” Nic Claxton mentioned of Garland, including “We’ve definitely been battle-tested throughout this whole year. We’ve got a lot of new guys here, but we’re ready. The guys that we have are mostly healthy and we’re ready for whoever we’ve got to play against. It don’t matter.” 

The Nets need to keep away from going through elimination Friday in opposition to the Hawks or Hornets, having lost to each previously couple of weeks. 

“Absolutely. We’re only focusing on [Tuesday],” Nash mentioned. “If we occur to lose and must play a subsequent sport, we’ll concentrate on that sport. But proper now we’ll play this prefer it’s our alternative to get in and provides the requisite focus and power. 

Kevin Durant (7) drives to the basket against Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen (24) during the Nets' win over the Cavaliers on April 8.
Kevin Durant (7) drives to the basket in opposition to Cavaliers ahead Lauri Markkanen (24) in the course of the Nets’ win over the Cavaliers on April 8.
USA TODAY Sports

“We’re all excited. We’re still getting to know this group. There’s confidence in there, but there’s excitement to continue to grow and build and compete. … We should be excited about what we can build, what we can accomplish in a short period of time here and how difficult we could be to beat in a playoff situation.” 

Or a play-in one. 

While Joe Harris and Ben Simmons gained’t play, Goran Dragic cleared well being and security protocols and Seth Curry (possible) insists he’ll play by way of his sore left ankle. Such is the significance of a play-in that has the texture of March Madness. 

“Yeah, it’s one game. You’ve got to put everything into it. It’s not like getting a ‘feel out’ game like you would in a seven-game series. It’s more just leave it on the floor for that one game and then move on to the next,” mentioned the floor-spacing Curry, who lifts the Nets’ Offensive Rating from 113.8 to 119.9 when he performs. 

“It’s always fun; playoffs is the best time of the year. Games get ramped up, higher intensity. It’s a higher level of play. You see teams at their best if they’re healthy; so it’s very exciting time of year. You get to see the best out of players and teams.”

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