While they’re trying to balance between being rested and ready for the postseason, the Brooklyn Nets still have some business to take care of in their regular-season finale.
The Nets again look to clinch the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed and try to avoid a fourth loss in five games Wednesday night at the lottery-bound Cleveland Cavaliers.
Although they have the East’s second-best record at 34-16 in 2014, the Nets (44-37) have gone 1-3 since a 6-1 stretch following Tuesday’s 109-98 loss to an eliminated New York team that played without star Carmelo Anthony.
Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston sat out with injuries and Mirza Teletovic is away from the team after his wife gave birth to twins, but all are expected to be ready for the playoffs.
"(This) was an example of how not to take a step forward," said Paul Pierce, who had 13 points in just 20 minutes. "We were off our game offensively, defensively, all phases of the game and that’s not how you want to go into the playoffs."
The Nets probably won’t take their final regular-season contest lightly since they lead Washington by just one game for the fifth seed. They could fall to No. 6 if they lose in Cleveland and Washington beats Boston.
Depending on how things shake out, Brooklyn will open at either Chicago or Toronto in the first round. The Nets were 1-2 versus the Bulls and split four games with the Raptors.
Marcus Thornton came off the bench to score a game-high 24 Tuesday, while Mason Plumlee continued his hot stretch with 16 points and nine rebounds. Plumlee has averaged 16.5 points on 26-of-31 shooting over his last four games.
Pierce totaled 39 points and was 7 for 12 from beyond the arc in Brooklyn’s two wins against the Cavaliers. He’s also averaged 21.2 points while hitting 18 of 32 3-point attempts over his last six games in the series.
Brooklyn has won four of six in Cleveland, but suffered an opening-night 98-94 loss there Oct. 30.
The Cavaliers (32-49), who will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season, have dropped four of their last five games. They suffered a 96-85 loss at NBA-worst Milwaukee on Friday and a 111-99 home defeat to lowly Boston on Saturday.
"It’s disappointing, just based on our effort," point guard Kyrie Irving said. "Our fans definitely don’t deserve that, especially to end the season."
While he’s expected to be offered a maximum contract extension this summer, Irving has been noncommittal about whether he’ll accept it. He’s averaged just 11.7 points and 3.0 assists while shooting 30.3 percent in his last three.
The All-Star also has 31 points on 9-of-32 (28.1 percent) shooting in his previous two home games versus Brooklyn. He’s missed the past two meetings overall due to injury.
Dion Waiters has averaged 21.4 points in 14 games since moving into the starting lineup. He’s scored a combined 46 while hitting 6 of 12 from 3-point range in his last two against the Nets.
The Cavaliers have ruled out Luol Deng (sore back), possibly ending his brief tenure with the club. The impending free agent was named the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner Tuesday, given to a player, coach or trainer for outstanding community service.
Cleveland has dropped 10 of the last 13 meetings with the Nets.