NBA Roundup: Durant carries Brooklyn as Knicks, Raptors, and Heat dominate
New York, New York – The Brooklyn Nets showed how they plan to approach their playoff rotation in a 118-107 home win against the Cleveland Cavaliers to leapfrog into the seven seed with one more game to play.
In a game considered a must-win for the Nets to avoid the much more difficult Play-In Tournament setup for teams who finish ninth and 10th, Brooklyn cut their rotation down to eight players on Friday while Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Bruce Brown all played at least 39 minutes.
Seth Curry and Andre Drummond filled out the starting five, while Kessler Edwards, Patty Mills, and Nic Claxton came off the bench, with LaMarcus Aldrige, Blake Griffin, and rookie Cam Thomas out of the mix.
Durant went on to finish with a game-high 36 points on 11-of-20 shooting (four-of-six from long range, 10-of-10 from the free throw line) to go with five assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block, while Brown had 10 rebounds, eight assists, and four blocks to go with his 18 points (six-of-12 shooting).
With the win, Brooklyn is now in position to host their first Play-In Tournament game – likely against the Cavaliers – with the winner entering the playoffs as the seven seed, while the loser gets another chance to play for the eight seed.
Most Improved Player contender Darius Garland was spectacular for the Cavs, scoring 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting, but the loss means his side has now lost eight of their past 10, and have been sputtering without injured center Jarrett Allen.
Overall, the Cavaliers are 43-38 this season, but just 8-17 in games Allen has missed.
Knicks, Raptors, and Heat come out on top
It was a career night for New York Knicks cult figure Obi Toppin, as he scored a career-high 35 points in his side's 114-92 away win against the Washington Wizards.
In only his eighth start of the season, the former first-round pick shot 14-of-22 from the field, including six-of-nine from deep, while fellow fan-favorite Immanuel Quickley was terrific off the bench, scoring 23 points (nine-of-18 shooting) with 10 assists.
Pascal Siakam seems destined to receive All-NBA honors this season after another great performance lifted his Toronto Raptors to a 117-115 win against the Houston Rockets.
In his past 10 games, Siakam is averaging 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists while shooting 53 per cent from the field, and improved those numbers with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against the Rockets.
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks played their shortened playoff rotations, and Trae Young's 35 points and eight assists was not enough as the top-seeded Heat prevailed 113-109 at home.
Cover photo: USA TODAY Sports