The first leg of the NBA Play-In Tournament tipped off on Tuesday night, with the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets defeating the eighth-place Cleveland Cavs to secure the #7 in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In the second game, the seventh-place Minnesota Timberwolves edged out the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers to snag the #7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
With the #7 seed, the Nets will now face the #2 Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Cavs still have a chance at the #8 seed in the East. They await the winner of the ninth place vs. 10th place game between the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks. In the Western Conference, the #7 Timberwolves have a date with Ja Morant and the #2 Memphis Grizzlies. That should be an epic battle between two of the highest-scoring teams in the NBA.
The Clippers have a chance to lock up the #8 seed in the Western Conference. They will play the winner of tonight’s ninth place vs. 10th place game between the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans.
Brooklyn Nets 115, Cleveland Cavs 108
The Cavs fell behind by 22 points early and it looked like they didn’t know what to do against the playoff version of the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets poured in 40 points in the first quarter and Kevin Durant was a non-factor.
“You can’t give a team like Brooklyn that has championship aspirations, and players who have won championships, a 22-point lead,” said Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff. “Again, give our guys credit for getting back in it. But that’s damn near impossible to overcome.”
The Cavs cut the lead in half in the second quarter. They got within six points late in the fourth quarter, but that’s when Durant took over. He knocked down back-to-back buckets to put the Nets back up by 10 points before holding off a last-gasp effort from the Cavs and winning by seven points.
Darius Garland dropped 34 points in a valiant, losing effort for the Cavs.
Kyrie Irving scored a team-high 34 points for the Nets. Durant shot 9-for-16 from the field and added 24 points.
“There’s just times where Kyrie comes out and plays out of his mind and that’s why he’s a future Hall of Famer,” said Kevin Love from the Cavs. “So, you just kind of have to tip your hat to him. He hit some really tough, contested shots today.”
The Nets were -9.5 favorites heading into the Play-In Tournament against the Cavs. They won, yet failed to cover the spread once again.
Minnesota Timberwolves 109, LA Clippers 104
The LA Clippers blew a second-half lead and failed to take advantage of a short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves team after Karl-Anthony Towns fouled out early in the fourth quarter. Towns scored just 11 points in 24 minutes of action, and barely played in the second half due to foul trouble.
“The game had to go in a different direction,” said Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch. “That’s why you have a team because a lot of other people step up.”
“We had a game plan of how to attack them,” said Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue. “And they played a lot better with KAT off the floor.”
Anthony Edwards sparked a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter, leading the Timberwolves with 30 points in a comeback victory.
“I took what the game gave me,” said Edwards, aka The Ant Man. “That’s what they gave me. They were scared to guard me, and I took advantage of that.”
The Clippers couldn’t slow down D’Angelo Russell either. He poured in 29 points for the Timberwolves.
Paul George shrugged off a poor shooting start, but scored a team-high 34 points for the Clippers. He was 3-for-13 from the field at one point before knocking down seven out of his last 11 shots.
The Clippers wanted the #7 seed, but they’ll go back to LA to prepare for the next play-in game to determine the #8 seed.
“Doesn’t matter who we play next,” added George. “So long as we win.”
Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.