Apr 28, 2021
Nets clinch playoff spot, with ‘eyes on bigger things’
Still, James Harden remains benched for now with a hamstring sprain
The Nets became the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch their spot in the playoffs Tuesday night after a 116-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
The win, led by Jeff Green’s 22 points, was the Nets’ third in a row after impressive performances against the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics, providing the team a 1.5 game cushion atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Head Coach Steve Nash celebrated the team’s guaranteed playoff berth, but insisted that they’re hungry for more:
“It’s great. We have our eyes on bigger things, but it’s a nice first step to clinch a berth.”
Green reiterated Nash’s message, explaining that “[The playoff clinch] is something we can be proud of, but we also have to realize that that’s not the goal. … We have to take on the next step, and that’s focusing on what we need to accomplish in the playoffs to get to our ultimate goal.”
The (perhaps inevitable) Nets playoff berth still marks a celebratory milestone in what has been a difficult and chaotic NBA season. With 10 games remaining, the Nets big three of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant have played only seven games together. Durant returned to the lineup with a minutes restriction on Sunday, scoring 33 points off the bench with his typical grace, but Harden remains out with a hamstring strain:
“[Harden] is here with us traveling. He was shooting [Tuesday] morning and just starting to build up what his capacity is,” explained Nash to the New York Post. “He’s not doing any high-intensity stuff, but he’s shooting and doing all his strength and rehabilitation work.”
Harden’s continued absence means it is looking increasingly unlikely that the Nets will be be able to get all three stars on the court together before the playoffs begin. Nash said “a ways to go” in regards to a potential return date for his star point guard.
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