Kyrie Irving had 34 points and 12 assists, Kevin Durant added 25 points and 11 assists, and the Brooklyn Nets took the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 on Tuesday night in the play-in opener.
The Nets raced to a 20-point lead after one quarter and turned the Cavaliers away time and time again to earn a matchup with No. 2 seed Boston in a series that begins Sunday.
Game 1 at TD Garden is at 3:30 p.m., and will be televised nationally on ABC.
Irving made his first 12 shots before a 3-pointer rimmed out in the fourth quarter. He finished 12 for 15.
A preseason NBA Finals favorite who sputtered through a turbulent season and were in 10th place entering the last week of the regular season, the Nets have run off five straight wins. With Durant and Irving, they are far more dangerous than the usual No. 7 seed.
And both are willing to give the ball to teammates who are capitalizing when they get it. Bruce Brown had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while Andre Drummond scored 16 points.
Darius Garland scored 34 points for the Cavaliers, who have another chance to earn the No. 8 seed. They will host the winner of the Atlanta-Charlotte game on Friday, with the winner moving on to face No. 1 seed Miami.
Mavericks put no timetable on Doncic return with playoffs looming
The Dallas Mavericks are not putting a timetable on Luka Doncic’s return from a calf strain four days before the opener of a first-round playoff series against Utah.
The team said Tuesday that the 23-year-old superstar had begun treatment. Doncic strained his left calf late in the third quarter of what turned out to be a meaningless regular-season finale against San Antonio on Sunday.
Dallas opens the playoffs at home Saturday against the Jazz. The fourth-seeded Mavericks have home-court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since they won their only championship in 2011. That’s also the last time Dallas won a postseason series.
“He’s in great spirits today,” coach Jason Kidd said after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ll see how his body feels tomorrow. I think we’ll prepare with him and we’ll also prepare without him.”
Doncic finished as the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 28.4 points per game. He was the only player in the league to average at least 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game.
The two-time All-Star wouldn’t have been eligible for the finale against the Spurs if the NBA hadn’t rescinded his 16th technical foul, assessed in the second-to-last game. Without the reversal, Doncic would have served a one-game suspension.
Doncic played his normal rotation, which included all of the first quarter and was supposed to be all of the third. Kidd said he would have been finished for the night after the third. The injury happened in the final three minutes of the quarter.
There was no sign of Doncic during the portion of practice open to reporters. Fellow guard Spencer Dinwiddie said he “looked fine to me,” and Jalen Brunson said he was optimistic Doncic would play. Brunson will be the starting point guard if Doncic is out.
“I hope for the best,” Brunson said. “I mean, that’s our organization right there.”
Stephen Curry’s status for Warriors playoff opener unclear
Stephen Curry’s status for Golden State’s playoff opener Saturday against Denver remains unclear as he rehabs a sprained ligament in his left foot.
The reigning scoring champion has been doing individual work on the court in recent days and could be integrated into full practices and scrimmages sometime this week. The Warriors said that “his eventual return to game action — and the possibility of playing this weekend — is undetermined and will be based on his continued progress.”
“He continues to get his work in,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s literally day to day, so tomorrow we’ll meet with the team and go through our strategy, our game plan, practice in the afternoon and then each day we’ll just determine where Steph is as far as how much he’ll be able to do.”
Curry was injured March 16 at home against Boston and Golden State went 6-6 without him, finding some rhythm to win the final five regular-season games.
Kerr said his team will scrimmage Thursday, so that could be Curry’s first opportunity to test the foot in live action if he’s ready. He won’t play in a game until he has been in a scrimmage.
“The whole team will need a scrimmage given that we generally play every other day and all of a sudden we have six days between games, that’s pretty unique,” Kerr said. “Everybody will need a scrimmage but it would be irresponsible to put Steph out there in a playoff game without having scrimmage time before.”
The Warriors finished 53-29 to secure the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. They will host the Nuggets on Saturday night in Game 1 of the first round at Chase Center.
After run to East finals, Hawks face play-in game vs Hornets
The Atlanta Hawks never expected to be in this position, not after last summer’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But here they are, needing to win two play-in games just to make the playoffs. First up: the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night in a matchup between the ninth and 10th seeds in the East.
“Our destiny is in our hands,” Hawks center Clint Capela said.
Atlanta was one of the biggest surprises of the 2021 postseason, knocking off both the Knicks and the top-seeded 76ers before losing to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in a highly competitive conference final.
With a young core led by Trae Young, the Hawks set a goal of finishing in the top four in the East this season. Instead, after a year plagued by COVID issues, injuries, and a strange lack of chemistry, they had to settle for the next-to-last play-in spot.
“We have to live in the moment,” coach Nate McMillan said. “We can’t think about all of that. We have a game we have to win.”
The Hornets are in the play-in tournament for the second year in a row. While they haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, they appear to be a franchise on the rise.
“We feel like we can definitely win and sneak into the playoffs,” guard Terry Rozier said.
The winner of the 9-10 game advances to a road contest Friday against the loser of the 7-8 game between Brooklyn and Cleveland for the final playoff spot in the East.
“We’ve still got a chance to make the playoffs,” Young said. “We’ve got to take advantage of it.”