Both the Brooklyn Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves won their respective games in the first round of the NBA Play-In tournament, and will progress to the playoffs as the seventh seed in their respective conferences. The Nets will face the Boston Celtics, while the Timberwolves will face the Memphis Grizzlies through the first round of the playoffs. Despite their losses, there is still a chance to advance to the big party for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers teams.
On paper, one of the matches was closer than the other. In this quick recap, we’ll go through the analysis and chronicle of both of them, as well as a preview of what they have coming up in the near future.
NBA Play-In: Brooklyn Nets defeat Cleveland Cavaliers with minimal effort (115-108)
Although the final score may not appear to indicate it, the Nets were always in control of this game thanks to their imposing offense: both Kevin Durant (25 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 9-16 shooting from the field) and Kyrie Irving (34 points, 3 rebounds, 12 assists, 12-15 shooting from the field) made their usual efforts to maintain the lead at specific moments throughout the game.
In the off times, Bruce Brown (18 points, 8 rebounds), Andre Drummond (16 points, 9 rebounds), and Nicholas Claxton (13 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks) provided just enough for the Nets’ top two stars, who didn’t let Cleveland get a lead. Despite the fact that the defense was not the best, they did well since they had an unstoppable offense. They will now face one of the best defensive squads in the entire NBA during the first round of the postseason: the Boston Celtics.
For the Cavaliers,Darius Garland had a superb performance (34 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) along with solid performances from Kevin Love (14 points, 13 rebounds) and Evan Mobley (19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks), but beyond that, Cleveland’s offense was disappointing, shooting for a combined 14 conversions on 44 attempts (31.4% efficiency).
Jarrett Allen was needed to make it a little more difficult for Brooklyn when it was their chance to attack, as Caris LeVert was not particularly accurate, scoring 12 points on 12 attempts from the field. The Cavs will now await the winner of tomorrow’s game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Charlotte Hornets, where they will need to step up their offensive game if they want to make the playoffs.
NBA Play-In: Minnesota Timberwolves secure last-minute win over Los Angeles Clippers (109-104)
This was a true back-and-forth encounter since the Wolves accomplished the feat after trailing by almost ten points midway through the final quarter. Karl Anthony-Towns dealt with foul accumulation problems throughout the game, limiting him to just 24 minutes of action in the entire game before being ejected in the fourth period (11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and still, Minnesota managed to defeat a Clippers squad with more experience on their resume.
The performances of Anthony Edwards (30 points, 5 rebounds) and D’Angelo Russell (29 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 10-18 from the field) led the team directed by Chris Finch to secure the seventh spot in the playoffs, thanks to a solid defense in key times and an offense that was able to generate the necessary space when the Clippers’ approach declined.
Patrick Beverley also demonstrated how to be a showman as well as an incredibly versatile and influential player on the court (7 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists), securing the game-winning possession from the hands of Reggie Jackson in the final minute of the game. The Timberwolves will now meet the Memphis Grizzlies, the season’s surprise team, and we’re eagerly anticipating the showdown between Ja Morant and Beverley.
The Clippers led for most of the game, maintaining a rigid defensive style that completely limited Karl Anthony Towns throughout the game, and, for a significant portion of the game, Anthony Edwards himself. Unfortunately, apart from Paul George (34 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) the rest of his teammates struggled offensively, missing key shots or squandering offensive possessions that could have resulted in scoring opportunities for Minnesota.
Norman Powell (16 points, 3 rebounds) and Reggie Jackson (17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) joined PG13 in trying to preserve the lead, but both had a late-game performance slump in tandem with Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac. The team couldn’t get neither a good offensive possession that didn’t go through George’s hands, nor a way to stop the advances of Edwards and Russell on the other end of the court.
The Tyronn Lue-led team will have to mentally prepare for their next opponent, the winner of the matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and the San Antonio Spurs, which will take place today. Although they are the early favorites to win the last playoff spot, being overconfident after blowing a lead to the Wolves is not an option.