NBA: Durant, Irving lead Brooklyn Nets over Indiana Pacers
NEW YORK – Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant combined for 55 points as the Brooklyn Nets held off a rally from the Indiana Pacers on Sunday to seal seventh place in the Eastern Conference and clinch home advantage for next week’s play-in.
The Nets’ final regular season game looked set to be a blowout for long periods as Brooklyn jumped out to an 18-point lead in the first half.
But a dogged Pacers unit drew level at 89-89 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter before Brooklyn regrouped to pull clear and run out 134-126 winners.
The win means Brooklyn will face a home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday where a victory will see them enter directly into the playoffs as seventh seeds.
The Nets will head into that showdown buoyed by the recent form of Irving and Durant.
Irving finished with 35 points, seven rebounds and five assists on Sunday, going 15-of-20 from the field.
Durant, meanwhile, completed a triple double of 20 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 16 assists while Brooklyn had six players finish in double figures.
“It’s been an up and down last few weeks for us — winning some games, losing some games,” Durant said afterwards.
“I think we’re finding out who we are as a group and that’s always a good thing.”
Durant is now looking forward eagerly to the business end of the season, starting with Tuesday’s assignment against Cleveland.
“It’s been a long year and this is the perfect time of the year to play our best basketball,” Durant said.
A Brooklyn victory over Cleveland on Tuesday would see the Nets face the second seeds from the Eastern Conference in the first round of the playoffs — potentially the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Milwaukee’s fate as second seeds was left in the balance however after their under-strength lineup was thumped 133-115 by the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Sunday.
The Bucks were without key players Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis for the game which was notable for a bizarre fleeting cameo by another mainstay Jrue Holiday.
Holiday came onto the court for the tipoff and promptly committed a foul after eight seconds before leaving the court without returning.
Reports said the brief appearance allowed him to collect a $255,000 bonus included in his contract for featuring in 67 games this season.
Whether Milwaukee hang on to second seeding after Sunday’s defeat depends on the outcome of Boston’s road game in Memphis later Sunday.
The Celtics will leapfrog into second place with a win over the Grizzlies.