Sports

Nets beat Pacers to lock up 7th, host play-in game Tuesday

Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant, center, grabs a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center, Sunday, Apr. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK (AP) — Four wins in the final week sent the Brooklyn Nets surging up to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

One more win sends them to the playoffs.

“Now we get to carry some of that momentum on into Tuesday,” Kyrie Irving said.

Irving scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 20 points, a career-high 16 assists and 10 rebounds and the Nets locked up seventh place with a 134-126 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

The Nets will host No. 8 Cleveland on Tuesday in the play-in tournament, with the winner moving into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. The loser will have a second chance by hosting the winner of the game between the Nos. 9 and 10 seeds on Friday.

Brooklyn and Cleveland both finished 44-38, but the Nets won the season series to take the tiebreaker.

Durant shot just 5 for 17 from the field but finished with his fourth triple-double, his highest total in any season. Andre Drummond added 20 points, shooting 9 for 9, and 13 rebounds. Bruce Brown scored 21 points in the Nets’ fourth straight victory to wrap up the regular season.

The Nets began the final week in danger of finishing ninth or 10th, which would’ve meant needing two wins — at least one on the road — in the play-in to get into the postseason.

But they took advantage of a soft schedule in their final days, with victories over Houston and New York before beating Cleveland on Friday. The Nets needed to finish strong after an uneven regular season.

“We stayed with it. We all had one goal in mind and we saw it through,” Drummond said. “We finished off the year great.”

Oshae Brissett scored 28 points for the Pacers, who lost their final 10 games to finish 25-57. Indiana didn’t win after March 20. Buddy Hield added 21.

The Nets made 20 of their first 26 shots — Durant was 0 for 5, the rest of the team 20 for 21 — and opened a 47-29 lead just over a minute into the second quarter.

The Nets led 76-60 at halftime but the Pacers began the third quarter with a 17-2 run to make it a one-point game. Terry Taylor’s basket tied it at 91, but Irving made a 3-pointer before Durant scored and then threw a lob to Nic Claxton for a dunk that quickly pushed it back to 98-91.

“It’s tough playing against Irving and Durant, but guys just stayed with it and got back into the game, gave ourselves a chance,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Pacers kept trying to come back, even after the Nets regained a double-digit lead, but Irving answered with baskets a couple times when it got close. He shot 15 for 20.

“That’s what makes them all-time greats,” guard T.J. McConnell said of Irving and Durant. “If someone thinks that they’re going to guard Kyrie 1 on 1 and be effective, I think you may have another thing coming.”

TIP-INS

Pacers: Duane Washington Jr. scored 18 points. Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points and 10 assists.

Nets: Seth Curry missed the game with left ankle soreness. … Coach Steve Nash said that G Goran Dragic, who missed his fifth straight game while in health and safety protocols, has been feeling better and could play Tuesday if he is cleared in time.

SIMMONS STATUS

Ben Simmons, who still hasn’t played for the Nets since being acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, worked out on the court before the game. Nash provided a positive update on the 2016 No. 1 pick, who has been battling back problems that include a herniated disk.

“He’s doing a little bit of movement,” Nash said. “Still 1-on-0 stuff, so he still got a lot of milestones to reach, but it’s positive. At least he’s moving around a little bit.”

DEAL OF THE DAY

Kessler Edwards started on the day the Nets signed him to a standard NBA contract, making him eligible to play in the postseason. The second-round pick from Pepperdine had a two-way deal, which wouldn’t have allowed him to play next week.