The Brooklyn Nets are one win away from locking up a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. At the moment, that’s all that matters.
Kyrie Irving’s early-season exile? Irrelevant. James Harden’s midseason trade demands? In the past. Kevin Durant’s injuries? A distant memory.
All the Nets need to do is win one more game to lock up a spot in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if they are the seven or eight seed. They will be a slight favorite over the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat, even without homecourt advantage.
But before we look ahead to a potential seven-game series, the Cleveland Cavaliers are standing in Brooklyn’s way. The Nets are 8.5-point favorites entering this matchup. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given the talent disparity on these two teams. Not to mention, Cleveland will be without its starting center, Jarrett Allen.
Of course, in a seven-game series, the Nets would have the significant upper hand. But that’s not the case in this one-game scenario. It’s akin to a Game 6 or 7 for Brooklyn.
On the bright side, the Nets have the backstop of another chance should the Cavs pull off the upset. If that happens, Brooklyn will face the winner of the Hawks-Hornets.
This isn’t an ideal position for Brooklyn, but given the trials and tribulations of this season, they can’t ask for much more. If they can win one game in the play-in tournament, they are in their best position to win a championship in two decades. One more win would give Brooklyn a full reset heading into the playoffs.
Their path to the NBA Finals doesn’t look much different than it did last year. If they finish with the seven seed, they will face the Boston Celtics in the first round with the Milwaukee Bucks looming in the next round, barring a shocking upset by the Chicago Bulls.
Milwaukee has had Brooklyn’s number over the last two seasons, but this is a much different Nets team this time around. Last year, the Nets played most of the Bucks series with Kevin Durant, no Kyrie Irving, and a hobbled James Harden.
Durant looks as healthy as he’s been all season long, Irving is well-rested after missing a chunk of the season for being unvaccinated, and James Harden transformed into Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and Ben Simmons.
Curry adds another three-point threat, Drummond is a physical center who can eat up minutes in the playoffs, and Simmons could come back for the playoffs. All things considered, Brooklyn is in a great spot.
Win and you’re in. Despite an up-and-down season, the Nets are right where they want to be.