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Nets eliminated from playoff contention despite gritty win

The Nets won the battle but lost the war.

Brooklyn beat Indiana 115-111 Wednesday night in front of 17,732 at the Barclays Center, with its youngsters leading the way.

But the victory was a Pyrrhic victory, as the Nets were officially eliminated from the playoffs by Atlanta’s victory about a half-hour earlier.

Mikal Bridges, author of 18 points, drives Pascal Siakam in the Nets’ 115-111 victory against the Pacers. P.A.

A season full of underperformance – including the firing of Jacque Vaughn during the All-Star break – saw the Nets in this mess.

They moved to 30-47 and saw the Hawks’ victory over the pitiful Pistons officially end any hopes of reaching the Eastern Conference play-ins.

But any hope the Nets have for their own future beyond this dismal season may rest with some of the young players who shined Wednesday night.

Cam Thomas, just 22 years old, led them as usual with a team-high 27 points.

Center Nic Claxton – a 24-year-old Brooklynite determined to stay in free agency this summer – had a double-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.

But the most promising might have been teenage rookie Noah Clowney, who spent much of the season in the G-League but showed well with career highs of 22 points, 10 rebounds, 7 of 9 shooting and 3 of 4 deep.

Cam Thomas, who scored a game-high 27 points, makes a jumper as Tyrese Haliburton defends in the Nets’ victory. Robert Sabo / New York Post

While Houston owned their first-round pick in June, the Nets drafted the spindly Clowney for upside, and he showed some of that promise.

Clowney – at 19 years and 264 days old – was the second youngest Nets player to score 20 points, just seven days older than Cliff Robinson in 1979.

The Nets had won three of five, but suffered back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Pacers in which they dropped games early.

After giving up 254 points and 49.5 percent shooting in its previous two meetings against Indiana, at least Brooklyn showed some defensive pride in this one.

Pascal Siakam had 26 points and Tyrese Haliburton added 24 for Indiana.

The Pacers fell to 43-34, but they are looking forward to the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Nets are looking forward to next season.

Nic Claxton, author of 14 points, attempts a shot during the Nets’ victory. Robert Sabo / New York Post

Brooklyn actually avoided its traditional slow start and jumped out early in this one, taking an early 11-4 lead.

It didn’t last, as the Nets quickly gave up a 25-4 run to lose two touchdowns.

But Clowney led his comeback. The Nets outscored Indiana 42-31 in the second quarter, powered by the agile teenager.

Drafted as a defender and rebounder, Clowney had 14 points in the quarter on 5-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc. Considering he was just 4 of 16 in his first 17 games, it was a surprising spark.

Trailing 63-61 in the third, Brooklyn managed nine unanswered. Dennis Schroder (12 points, 11 assists, six rebounds) found Thomas for a putback 3 that increased the Nets’ cushion to 70-63.

Pascal Siakam, who scored a team-high 26 points, led Cam Thomas in the Nets’ win over the Pacers. John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

They pushed it to 83-70 on Dorian Finney-Smith’s tip dunk with 4:27 left in the third.

But Brooklyn couldn’t make it easy.

The Nets immediately gave up a 21-5 run to fall behind by three.

And back-to-back baskets from Siakam left the Nets in a 106-103 hole.

They trailed 108-105 after another Siakam jumper with 1:41 left.

That’s when they definitely transformed the match with a 7-0 series.

Mikal Bridges hit a corner 3 off an offensive rebound to tie it at 108 with 1:23 left.

And after a defensive stand, Schroder’s layup made the score 110-108.

Clowney added a pair of free throws to extend the lead to four, and after Finney-Smith stole the ball from Obi Toppin with just 26.6 seconds left, Bridges iced it.

But Atlanta’s victory made the question moot.

New York Post

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