Nets’ Andre Drummond says final two regular-season outings are ‘must-win games’ for Brooklyn

NEW YORK — As the Brooklyn Nets prepare for their final two regular-season games of the season, they’re doing so by controlling their own playoff destiny.

If the Nets — currently ranked eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 42-38 record — win their final two games, they’ll get the seventh seed and host the Eastern Qualifying Game 1 next Tuesday night. Veteran center Andre Drummond left no doubt about his team’s mood in Friday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers – the team that sits one spot ahead of the Nets.

“I think these are must-watch games for us,” Drummond said after Friday’s shootout. “I think we know what’s ahead of us and we know what’s going to happen if we win those two games. I think our sense of urgency is a bit higher than before, and I think we’re ready to go. take that next step.”

The Nets, who have faced a variety of injuries, a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak in December and Kyrie Irving’s part-time status from January to March due to his decision not to getting a COVID shot, remain confident they can still catch the pace they need to make a long run in the playoffs.

“If we play well before the qualifying game, then those two games take care of themselves and we should win them,” guard Seth Curry said. “But if we don’t play well, we’re probably not going to get out of the game anyway.

“So it’s just a matter of [playing] our style of play, having confidence and being in a good rhythm playing our best basketball.”

Both Drummond and Curry have been solid since moving, along with Ben Simmons and two future first-round picks, to the Nets in a trade deadline deal that sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers. . Despite the fact that Simmons still hasn’t played for the Nets due to a back injury — and a playoff return remains a very uncertain possibility — Brooklyn remains confident he can still win a title this year.

“I think that’s the mindset of everyone at the start of the year, it’s trying to win a championship,” Drummond said. “I think with this team we have a special group of guys here – anything is possible, this is the NBA at the end of the day. Anything can happen.

“We just have to hang our hats up, do our best… so we have this mindset that we can win. I think everyone has the same mindset. For us, we just try to stay within ourselves themselves and make things happen.”

For Curry, that means continuing to play despite pain in his left ankle. After missing the last two games, Curry scored 15 points and made three 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 110-98 win over the New York Knicks.

“It’s pretty much the same, man,” Curry said of his ankle injury. “I’m just trying to manage it – and I’ve been through it and played in pain. So it’s just a day-to-day management thing, trying to get through the end of the season in the playoffs, giving the team what I can. I feel like if Tiger can shoot 1 under at Augusta yesterday, I can play with a bit of pain for the rest of the season.”