NEW YORK -- As the Brooklyn Nets prepare for their final two regular-season games of the season, they do so in control of their own playoff destiny.
If the Nets -- currently seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 42-38 record -- win their final two games, they will lock up the seventh seed and would host the East's first play-in game next Tuesday night. Veteran center Andre Drummond left no doubt where his team's mindset is heading into Friday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers -- the team that sits one slot ahead of the Nets.
"I think they're must-win games for us," Drummond said after Friday's shootaround. "I think we know what's ahead of us and we know what's going to happen if we do win these two games. I think our sense of urgency is a little bit higher than what it was before, and I think we're prepared to take that next step."
The Nets, who have dealt with a variety of injuries, a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak in December and Kyrie Irving's part-time status from January to March because of his decision not to get the COVID vaccine, remain confident that they can still catch the rhythm they need to make a long run in the postseason.
"If we're playing well heading into the play-in game, then those two games take care of itself and we should win 'em," guard Seth Curry said. "But if we're not playing well, then we're probably not going to get out of the play-in game anyways.
"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 being dealt, 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 because of a back injury -- and a playoff return remains a very uncertain possibility -- Brooklyn remains steadfast in the belief that they can still win a title this year.
"I think it's everybody's mindset in the beginning of the year, is to try and win a championship," Drummond said. "I think with this team we have a special group of guys here -- anything is possible, it's the NBA at the end of the day. Anything can happen.
"We just got to hang our hat, put our best foot forward ... so we do have that mindset that we can win. I think everybody has that same mindset. For us, we're just trying to stay within ourself and make things happen."
For Curry, that means continuing to play through pain in his left ankle. After missing the past two games, Curry scored 15 points and hit 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. "Just trying to manage it -- and got through it and played through some pain. So it's just an everyday managing thing, trying to get through end of the season into the playoffs, giving the team what I can. I feel like if Tiger can shoot 1 under at Augusta yesterday, I can play through a little bit of pain for the rest of the season."