By Terrance Turner
April 13, 2022
Tonight, the NBA postseason officially began, as the Brooklyn Nets battled the Cleveland Cavaliers in Brooklyn. Tonight’s match was anything but ordinary: 10 people were shot in a subway station attack in Brooklyn this morning — in the Sunset Park neighborhood, near the Nets’ training center. (The Brooklyn Nets held a moment of silence before their play-in game against Cleveland and said they were donating $50,000 to help those who were injured, per the Associated Press.)
Nets forward Kevin Durant and Nets point guard Kyrie Irving both shined, each nailing every shot they took in the first quarter. Durant went 3-for-3 with 8 points; Irving was 5-for-5 with 11 points. It was one of his best shooting performances, per TNT. According to ESPN, “The Nets made nearly 71% of their shots in the first quarter — Irving and Durant combined to make all eight of theirs — and closed the period with a 15-3 spurt that made it 40-20. It was a bigger lead than Brooklyn had in any first quarter during the regular season.” Brooklyn led 40-20 at the end of the quarter, thanks largely to Irving and Durant.
It was their efforts (plus a consistently good defense) that kept them in it for the second quarter, as the Nets managed to retain their lead despite eight turnovers. Brooklyn was actually outscored by Cleveland early in the second quarter, but came roaring back in the final minutes as Irving caught fire. Durant had his first miss of the game, but Irving remained perfect. He racked up 20 points and went for 9-for-9, making some tough shots — including this stellar buzzer-beater:
Though the offense had sputtered in the second quarter once Durant hit the bench, the Nets overcame a 9-2 Cavaliers run. The Cavs missed a number of open shots while trying to fight off the Nets’ defense, and the Nets maintained a commanding lead despite a number of turnovers. Brooklyn led 57-43 at the half.
Nets center Andre Drummond got off to a fast start as the second half got underway, nailing back-to-back dunks within a minute. But it was Irving who hit a massive three-pointer with 8:45 left in the third quarter. His 26-foot jumper pushed the Nets to another 20-point lead: they now led 67-47.
Drummond upped the lead to 22 with another layup. Cavs shooting guard Caris LeVert responded with a three, but Nets point guard Bruce Brown responded with a three-point jumper of his own. Cavs rookie Evan Mobley and point guard Darius Garland began to chip away at that lead before Drummond added another layup The Cavs were able to whittle the gap down to 12 before Brown grabbed the assist from Durant for a slam dunk..
Minutes later, Irving suffered his first miss of the night as Mobley fouled him. Irving made three consecutive free throws to make it 79-64. Then, with just under three minutes left, he turned an assist from Durant into one of his easiest baskets of the night. He headed to the bench for a break shortly afterward, drawing an ovation from the crowd. In less than three quarters, he’d racked up 28 points.
Cleveland took advantage of Irving’s absence and Brooklyn’s turnovers, which continued to be a problem. Cleveland went on a 7-0 run in the last two minutes of the third quarter. Irving re-entered the game — just in time for Durant to make a driving dunk. The Cavs managed to pull within 12 thanks to a couple free throws from Cedi Osman. The Nets led 85-73 at the end of the third.
Irving opened the fourth quarter with a 16-foot pullup jump shot. He had 30 points by then. Play came to a pause, however, when Garland apparently hit in the groin. The officials huddled to review, later announcing that the foul was a flagrant. That proved to be a big break for Cleveland, as Garland recovered enough to make both his free throws. Then he sank a three-pointer to cut the lead to seven. The Cavs went on a 16-4 run, trailing just 80-87. They got within six before Durant hit the three!
With the score now 91-82, Brown added a basket of his own to push the lead back into double digits. Lauri Markkanen made a 26-foot three point jumper (LeVert assisted), butting it right back down to eight. Brown came to the rescue again, making a two-foot dunk and then, after a LeVert layup, assisting center Nic Claxton with an alley-oop. Back and forth they went, and a game that had once looked like a blowout evolved into something much closer.
But just when things were beginning to tighten, Durant sank two back-to-back jump shots to make it 103-93. The Nets would maintain a small but sizable lead for the remainder of the game. Brown rolled with yet another assist to Claxton, who slammed the ball down for an exclamation point. Then Brown got a shot of his own, pushing the lead to eight with an easy basket. That essentially sealed the game.
Irving was fouled with just five seconds to go, allowing him to pad his stats on what had been a stellar performance. He made both his free throws — the last made shots of the game — to make it official. The Nets won, 115-108. They will advance to the playoffs as the No. 7 seed and will face the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Irving finished with 34 points and 12 assists, which is remarkable considering that he hadn’t eaten since morning. Irving is fasting for Ramadan, meaning that he doesn’t consume any food or water (!!!) between sunrise and sundown. Asked how he was able to be so productive on the court with such little fuel, Irving answered that he gains strength from his faith. “I’m not alone in this. I’ve got brothers and sisters all over the world that are fasting with me,” he told a reporter after the game. “God’s inside me. God’s inside you. God’s inside all of us. So I’m walking by faith, and that’s all that matters,” he said.
Durant (who finished with 25 points and 11 assists) praised his teammates’s commitment to his fast. “Everyone who does Ramadan, you just commend them,” he said. “Especially when you got a job like this…He’s a different human being.”
Additionally, when Durant sat down for his postgame interview, Irving could be heard offscreen, telling Durant that he loves him. Durant replied, “I love you, too, champ.”