Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nets Defeat Cavs in 2022 NBA Playoff Play-in Game

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 13, 2022

BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 12: Kyrie Irving #11 hi-fives Kevin Durant #7 and Andre Drummond #0 of the Brooklyn Nets during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2022 Play-In Tournament on April 12, 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets secured the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with a 115-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA play-in tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

A first-round playoff series with the Boston Celtics now awaits the Nets.

Brooklyn set a blistering pace with 40 points in the first quarter, at which point it looked like things would get out of hand quickly. Instead, the Cavaliers continued to hang around and trailed by as few as six points inside the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant hit a pair of pull-up jumpers to put the Nets back up 10, 103-93, with 3:38 on the clock. Cleveland remained within touching distance but wouldn't get close enough to threaten Brooklyn's lead.

Notable Performers

Kyrie Irving, PG, Nets: 34 points, 3 rebounds, 12 assists

Kevin Durant, PF, Nets: 25 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks

Darius Garland, PG, Cavaliers: 34 points, five assists, 2 steals

Evan Mobley, C, Cavaliers: 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks

Nets Stars Too Much for Undermanned Cavs

Through all of the dysfunction the Nets experienced this year, a sliver of hope remained in Brooklyn that things would start clicking in the postseason. When you have Durant and Kyrie Irving both healthy and available, you like your chances in a best-of-seven playoff series.

Tuesday showed exactly why as the pair torched Cleveland's defense. Sometimes basketball boils down to having the two best players on the floor.

Mike Vorkunov @MikeVorkunov

Kyrie + KD in the first half: a combined 13-of-14 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the line. KD has 12 and 7 assists. Kyrie has 20 points and four assists. The Nets are up 14 at the half because their stars almost literally can't miss.

Kristian Winfield #NFTAllStar @Krisplashed

This is how these games are supposed to go. They're supposed to be dominant and leave no shadow of a doubt who the better team is. The Nets are up 20 over the Cavs here at the 8:45 mark in the 3rd quarter. Brooklyn is overwhelming Cleveland. Too many weapons on offense.

Irving, in particular, seemed to relish heaping misery upon his old team. Even when the Cavaliers had him defended well, he couldn't miss. There aren't many stars more electric than the 30-year-old guard when he's at his best.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Kyrie's putting on a SHOW.<br><br>Nets up 40-20 after 1Q. <a href="https://t.co/qCQ1aFNtNe">pic.twitter.com/qCQ1aFNtNe</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KYRIE. UNREAL.<br>He's 9/9 at the end of the first half <a href="https://t.co/JYrBJt7VxW">pic.twitter.com/JYrBJt7VxW</a>

Irving made his first 12 shots and didn't watch an attempt bounce off the rim until the fourth quarter.

This game did send up some red flags, though. Cleveland outscored Brooklyn in the last three quarters, and the Nets had problems in the brief moments head coach Steve Nash tried to get Durant and Irving a breather.

Yaya Dubin @JADubin5

It's probably not good for the Nets' prospects that I get nervous for them when KD sits out 4 minutes in the 2Q against the Jarrett Allen-less Cavs but that's where they're at right now.

Dan Devine @YourManDevine

I imagine it's cold comfort after watching two Hall of Famers put up an ostensibly perfect half of basketball against you, but if the Cavs could just *not* go 3-for-14 from 3, they might be in business if the Nets keep playing with their food

Every time the Cavs went on a run to trim the deficit, there still wasn't much drama. Durant or Irving would hit a big bucket or find an open teammate at a critical time.

Things might get a little dicier if the Nets take their foot off the gas against a tougher opponent.

Allen's Absence Proves Costly

What could've been for Cleveland.

Even if the team remained fully healthy, the Cavs were bound to hit a wall at some point. Sooner or later, the more seasoned contenders in the conference would push them down the standings.

But Evan Mobley's ankle injury and Jarrett Allen's fractured finger caused J.B. Bickerstaff's squad to sputter down the stretch. Allen remains out of action, and the impact of his absence was laid bare once again.

Kirk Goldsberry @kirkgoldsberry

Cavs Defensive Rating Before Jarrett Allen Injury: <br>106.5, 4th in the NBA<br><br>Since,<br>117.3, 21st in the NBA <a href="https://t.co/sqsQPJvh3J">pic.twitter.com/sqsQPJvh3J</a>

Hayden Grove @H_Grove

The Cavs are out of gas and this is a terrible matchup for them. Add a Jarrett Allen injury and here we are. <br><br>It's ok! A one-game, winner-take-all moment in Cleveland on Friday is all you can ask for, given the adversity they endured at the end of this season. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cavs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cavs</a>

This game did provide some positives for Cleveland. If moral victories are a thing, they certainly apply when a young team doesn't throw in the towel in its first postseason test. The extent to which the supporting cast struggled was indicative of how the playoffs—what's effectively a playoff game in this instance—is a different beast.

Ashley Bastock @AshleyBastock42

Cavs not named Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Kevin Love are 9-of-34 (26.5%) from the field entering the 4Q.

The way in which Darius Garland put the offense on his back reinforced how he can be a cornerstone for the franchise's future.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Darius Garland OH MY 😳 <a href="https://t.co/8UVamYSYke">pic.twitter.com/8UVamYSYke</a>

Chris Fedor @ChrisFedor

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cavs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cavs</a> Darius Garland is in absolute takeover mode. No one else is really touching the ball on offense -- and no one else should at the moment. He is torching every defender in his path.

If they suffer another defeat, failing to qualify for the playoffs will undoubtedly be a disappointment relative to what the Cavs did in the regular season. But notching 44 wins means this year has already been a success.

What's Next?

Brooklyn and Boston will get their series underway Sunday. The Cavs will now play either the Charlotte Hornets or Atlanta Hawks at home on Friday to determine the No. 8 seed.