December 6, 2022

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Kevin Durant comes up big again as Nets top Cavaliers

He did it again.

Kevin Durant refused to let the Nets really mess up their playoff picture, refused to let them lose a game that some were calling their biggest of the season.

Durant put up 36 points in 41 minutes, including the go-ahead three-pointer in the fourth quarter, to push the Nets to a 118-107 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night at Barclays Center..

The win moved the Nets (43-38) into seventh place with the tiebreaker advantage over the Cavaliers, who have an dentical record. That means if the Nets close out their regular season with a win over Indiana on Sunday, they will host a play-in game against the No. 8 seed on Tuesday.

The winner of the 7-8 game moves into the playoffs. The loser gets one more shot of making it as they play the winner of the 9-10 game on Friday.

It was the second time this week Durant has pushed the team to a much-needed win. On Wednesday, he scored 32 points to lead the Nets past the Knicks.

“That’s the luxury of having one of the all-time great players,” coach Steve Nash said when asked what he felt seeing Durant take over the game. “He’s been there before. He’s got the skill and poise to do it.”

The Nets also got a big-time game from Bruce Brown, who fell just two assists short of a triple double by putting up 18 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocked shots. That helped make up for a struggling Kyrie Irving on a night in which the Nets were giving away T-shirts with his face on it to the fans. Irving scored 18 points and shot only 7-for-22.

The Nets outscored the Cavaliers, 34-19, in the final quarter, making it one of their best defensive fourth quarters in recent memory.

“Every game that we play, we feel like it’s a must win, we want to give our best effort. But obviously with this play-in tournament, this playoff idea or play-in idea, you know it’s been a little bit more pressure,” Irving said. “That’s part of being in the NBA and you know preparing daily for these type of moments.”

Cleveland was led by Darius Garland, who scored 31 points. Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Mobley scored 17 points after missing the previous five games with an ankle injury.

On Wednesday, Durant told reporters he was tired of being in close games after his team had to battle back from a 21-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Knicks, 110-98. The Nets had celebrated big time after their victory over their crosstown rivals — a video of the gleeful exchange between Durant and Irving went viral — but Durant said he didn’t like being on a team that has to dig itself out of a hole.

“It’s risky. I hate being down. I hate even being on that team,” Durant said. “I don’t want that to be a part of who we are.”

Right now, the Nets are a team that is one win away from the top play-in spot.