36 points for Kevin Durant lift the net off the Cavaliers to a 7th seed

After all the crazy variables that defined – and threatened – a season of ups and downs, the Nets’ ultimate mission is a simple one.

The Nets have a chance to clinch the No. 7 position of play in the Eastern District at the conclusion of the regular season after a decisive 118-107 victory over the Cavaliers on Friday night at the Barclays Center.

After Kevin Durant led the way with 36 points in 41 minutes to make up for a poor shooting night by Kyrie Irving (7 for 22, 18 points), the Nets could clinch seventh in the East with their Sunday home win against the team. Get rid of Pacers.

Bruce Brown had a great all-round game with 18 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocking shots, while Andre Drummond also scored a double-double (15 points and 12 boards) in the Nets’ third straight win.

The nets pulled out (43-38) even as the Cavaliers, losers in 17 of the last 25, fizzled out, but head coach Steve Nash’s side controlled their destiny by owning a head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams. Finishing in seventh or eighth place means the Nets will only need to win one game to qualify for the first round of playoffs. Teams in ninth and tenth places will need to win twice to secure the number eight seed.

Kevin Durant’s reaction during the Nets’ victory over the Cavaliers.
NBAE via Getty Images

Darius Garland scored 31 points for Cleveland, and Rising All-Star candidate Evan Mobley added 17 after missing the previous five games with an ankle injury.

“I think just knowing we have the opportunity to take that position gives us more fuel for the fire,” Drummond said before the match. “I think it’s matches that have to be won for us. I think we know what lies ahead and we know what will happen if we win those two matches.

“I think our sense of urgency is a little bit higher than it was before. And I think we’re ready to take the next step.”

Bruce Brown takes a corner kick during the Nets' win over the Cavaliers.
Bruce Brown takes a corner kick during the Nets’ win over the Cavaliers.
Charles Wenselberg/New York Post

The Nets have dealt with several roster issues throughout the season, most notably Irving’s absence from the squad for home games until March 28 due to his decision not to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, as well as injuries to Durant and others. Ben Simmons (at the back) has also not been a good fit for the team since his takeover of 76 in James Harden’s blockbuster deal on Deadline in February.

Behind Durant and Irving, the Nets overcame a double-digit second-half deficit Wednesday to beat the Knicks in the park.

Durant, who then remarked on victory that having to repeatedly come from behind to “extreme danger,” sent the Nets to a 34-17 lead Friday night with 16 points in the first quarter.

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant finished the game high with 36 points.
Charles Wenselberg/New York Post

The Cavaliers, who have been without an All-Star position and former Nate Garrett Allen (the finger) since March 6, tied for four in the second quarter before dropping 62-54 in the first half.

The Nets cushion was temporarily pushed into double digits early in third, but Garland scored 11 points in front of a 28-11 extended run, resulting in an 88-83 turning advantage to enter the Cavaliers final period.

Durant sat down to start fourth, but returned to the field after just 1:28 lapsed, and netted back to the front, 95-93, with a triple pointer with 8:50 remaining. Drummond’s Dunk completed two Irving free throws 10-0 Nets and expanded their lead to six.

Back-to-back triples from Durant and Brown pushed the lead to 105-97 just halfway out of the quarter, with Brown running down the field afterward with both arms raised above his head as the Nets began to pull back.