The Nets beat the Cavaliers in the Play-In to face the Celtics

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In most of their NBA games against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, the Nets looked like the intimidating team many longtime watchers said was hiding behind their lackluster record. Kevin Durant was awesome. Kyrie Irving didn’t miss a shot until the fourth quarter. Many of his teammates have made significant contributions that go well beyond what is normally expected of them.

However, the game lasted until the final minutes after Cleveland, who trailed 20 points after the first quarter and then 22 points in the third, reduced their delay to 6 with just over a minute left.

The job was finally done: The Nets took a 115-108 win to earn the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round match with the Boston Celtics. But the game was the latest example of the Nets’ performance that can be measured as an astonishing blend of world-beating talent and ominous lethargy.

For the half-glass crowd, Nets stars Irving and Durant . were combined 59 points from 31 shots with 23 assists distributedAnother show filled with stat sheets from one of the NBA’s most talented tandems was, once again, a tantalizing glimpse of what their partnership could have been at its height — a climax that was a rare sight to see in their time together in Brooklyn.

But they weren’t alone. The team’s best player, Bruce Brown, has 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, often presenting himself as a crucial relief valet on attack when Durant and Irving were bothered by defenders. And Andre Drummond punished Cleveland on the board and scored 16 points and had 8 rebounds in just 19 minutes. Agile defender Nick Claxton added 13 points, 9 rebounds and 5 streets off the bench.

But the half-empty glass set had clues, too, after the Nets nearly lost another stretch that led to a lower team. On Sunday at home to the Indiana Pacers, one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Nets suffered a similar end that came uncomfortably close. In the previous game—also against Cleveland—the Nets blew up a double-digit lead in the third quarter. Before that It was a match against the Knicks, another less talented team playing with the string; The net dropped 21 points in the first half of that time.

All three of those games required quarter-final wins to win, but all three replicated a pattern that’s been in force throughout most of the season: Valentice, despite being so talented in a few places, is a team that struggles to put together the wires. Wire performance. And in the playoffs, against the best teams in the league, this could be the Achilles heel.

“It was part of our journey as well,” Nets coach Steve Nash said on Tuesday of trying to find a way to shift his team’s fondness for dealing with disaster. “It’s not just about going out there and generating 20-point leads. Turn it into 30.

In Sunday’s first-round series opener, the Nets will travel to Boston to find the Celtics aren’t the same team that were so easily eliminated last season. And thanks to the Nets’ Brown, the Celtics will now have bulletin board materials as motivation.

Asked about the Celtics on Tuesday, Brown noted that the absence of Robert Williams, a third pole position in Boston and one of the best defenders in the league, would mean “they’re less in the paint.”

Comments disagreed with Durant, who dismissed it as “caffeine-speaking pride.” With Williams out, Brown said, the Nets “could attack” Al Horford and Daniel Theiss of Boston. Referring to Horford and Daniel Theis, who wrapped up the Celtics’ Big Man course. Durant frowned, “These two guys can do the same.”

Durant’s fitness is another constant concern to enter the nets series from the Celtics. Just getting into the tournament required a heavy burden on Durant, who played 42 minutes on Tuesday night. Since the star broke, Durant Average 38.6 minutes per game. While other league stars were able to manage their minutes — and save their legs — during extended runs, Durant, 33, had to put in more energy than usual just to coach his team in the playoffs.

One way or another, the Nets will go into the playoffs as they did last season: with high expectations and little time together. Last year it was the result of injuries and a trade for James Harden. This year, the result of injuries and Harden’s trade decision (not to mention Irving’s prolonged absence after refusing to get a coronavirus shot).

“We’re just a new band,” Nash said. “I think it was like the seventh match these nine players played together tonight. So every day is a day for us to get to know ourselves.. “

But all season, the Nets have been betting that talent trumps consistency. That’s why they shuffled the players in and out of the rotation with hesitation, why were they willing to trade Harden. Tuesday night’s win showed a potential group championship taste.

In the first three quarters, anyway.

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