clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Add ‘clutch’ to Mikal Bridges growing NBA bag

Mikal Bridges has become not just the Nets overall go-to guy. He is their closer ... and one of the best in the NBA.

Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Mikal Bridges drive for his first All-Star selection has a lot going for it. He’s averaging 23.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists on 49/37/46. Over the last 10 games, he’s up to 26.4, 6.0 and 4.3 assists on sharply improved 53/51/86 splits. You want to slice it even thinner? In his last two games, he’s averaging 37.0, 5.0 and 4.5 with splits of 62/60/87.

Then, there’s his durability. Friday’s game is his 413th straight NBA regular season game, his 452th when you could his post-season string. He remains a top defender as well. Ask Franz Wagner of the Magic. He’ll tell you.

Now, Bridges has quietly become one of the game’s top clutch shooters. Indeed, you can argue he IS the league’s best shooter in his sixth year.

As Evan Barnes and Erik Slater have written over the past two days, in clutch situations (defined as the final five minutes of games within five points), Bridges has become not just reliable, but extraordinary.

Bridges has taken 38 field goal attempts second most behind Kevin Durant, and his 55.3% shooting is second-best among the league’s top 10 in clutch field goal attempts behind only LeBron James. He remains tied with Young with 61 clutch points, second-most behind Damian Lillard. In terms of field goals made, he is No. 1 in the clutch with 21.

Like a lot of Bridges stats since he was traded to the Nets in February, it’s a new phenomenon. Since last year, as Jac Manuel of Brooklyn Buzz noted, his clutch shooting numbers have gone from “a complete nothing in the clutch to one of the best players in the whole league!”

“When you’re in those situations, there’s a feeling to it,” Jacque Vaughn said after Wednesday’s game when Bridges hit the winning shot vs. Atlanta. “There’s a moment to it. There is a dedication to it. There is a responsibility to it. And he’s really been answering the challenge. And we’ll continue to put him in those situations.”

Bridges himself knows what he needs to do. Unlike Phoenix, he is THE Man in Brooklyn.

“You want to be in them late game moments and take a lot of pride in it,” Bridges said. “You can see everybody’s face from the coaches, everybody on the bench, to the five guys out there. Like everybody’s locked in and want to be in these tough situations.”

At the Nets preseason press conference with Vaughn back in September, Sean Marks said it was something he wanted Bridges to focus on this season: stepping up, being the closer.

“I think that a few people have had their eyes open to what he can do,” Marks said, referring Bridges 27-game stretch after arriving from the Suns. “But now, when the ball’s in his hands in those key crucial moments of games, can he step up? Can he be that guy that we can rely on in big moments?”

As Barnes pointed out, Bridges’ “Mr. Clutch” moments began at the FIBA World Cup with this still stunning last-second three to tie the Bronze Medal game Team USA eventually lost to Canada...

“It’s a process and it builds. And he’s keeps a positive mindset about it.” said Cam Johnson, Bridges’ teammate for five seasons with Phoenix, Brooklyn and Team USA. “The more all of us are able to see, build, judge, make adjustments, and see what might have went wrong, what might’ve went right, we’re able to add that into our mental playbook.”

The playbook is indeed growing. It seems whenever he’s asked to do something new for his team, he shrugs his shoulders and accepts the challenge.

“[It’s] really not panicking, diagnosing the situation, making some adjustments from it, and then being okay with the results,” Vaughn said. “I think it takes special individuals to be okay with the results.”