In a shared locker room that needed cleaning so the next team could take over soon, there was no celebration for the Brooklyn Nets as they officially secured a playoff berth Friday with a 119-106 win over the Sacramento Kings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
While it was a bit of a formality, there was still some satisfaction for the achievement, particularly with overcoming a swarm of injuries to do it with a patchwork, starless roster to clinch it.
"It's great to punch your own ticket into the playoffs," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "I joke with the guys, I like my laundry being done, but nothing like doing your own laundry. We took care of business tonight."
The Nets are 3-2 in the NBA bubble despite stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant sitting out to recover from injuries. They are relying on a balanced attack featuring almost entirely role players. Against the Kings, Caris LeVert led the way with 22 points and Joe Harris scored 21, hitting 5-of-7 from 3.
Jarrett Allen flirted with a triple-double, posting 17 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists. He wasn't shy about wanting the round-number mark, either, openly campaigning with Vaughn to leave him in.
"I was trying to stay in," Allen said with a smile postgame. "I was trying to get JV to call a play where I handled the ball at the top and try to hit someone backdoor."
It marks back-to-back postseason appearances for the Nets, a stark improvement for a franchise that not long ago was considered to have one of the bleakest long-term outlooks in the league. But with strong front-office planning and now a star-studded roster to lean on in years to come, the Nets have an expectation to be a playoff staple.
"We want to make it a habit for this organization," LeVert said.
The Nets do still have quite a bit to play for in their three remaining games, though. While they can't mathematically move up to the 6-seed, they could fall to the 8 (they're 1½ games up on the Magic) which would mean a first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Nets next play the Clippers on Sunday, follow with a crucial matchup against Orlando and finish out against the Trail Blazers.