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It’s only one game but Dorian Finney-Smith (finally) shows what he can do

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Nets were breathing a sigh of relief Friday night and not just because of the team’s big comeback win over the Celtics. Dorian Finney-Smith had easily his best game at a Net, scoring 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds, handing out three assists and blocking two shots. Moreover, he shot 5-of-11 from deep after hitting only 20.6% in his first eight games in Brooklyn.

“Man, it felt good to hit some shots,” Finney-Smith said with a sigh post-game.

Considering that DFS still has three years and $43 million on his deal after this season, his performance had to be reassuring (particularly when Brian Lewis reported that the Nets were offered two first round picks by an undisclosed team after he was dealt by Dallas in the Kyrie Irving trade.)

“I just took my focus off my shot-making and just worried about winning. And when you do that, it kind of takes the pressure off of making shots,” said Finney-Smith. “And I appreciate my teammates. They kept passing me the ball and kept telling me to shoot it even though I ain’t been making shots.”

His numbers after the trade and before Friday night were tough to read. He was averaging just 6.1 points per game on 35/21/67 shooting, all career-lows. In Denver, his career numbers were 9.1 points on 43/36/75 shooting splits, per Lewis. He also had a number of big games in his four years in Dallas, hitting five threes on his way to an 18-point performance in December, then seven threes in February when he scored 21 points. He had eight in a playoff game vs. Phoenix last year. He has only hit seven threes since joining Brooklyn. None of his teammates were worried, even if he was.

“My boy Do,” Mikal Bridges said, as Lewis noted. “Man, he was over getting in his head, getting upset about not making shots. I just told him it’s going to come. I played against him in Dallas and in the playoffs hit eight 3s. Like, I know how [he is] shooting the ball, and I’m just like, ‘Just keep shooting. You’re gonna find it.’

“He just stayed confident and trusted his work. And in the big moment was making shots and that’s what we’re going to need. And that’s just making shots, that’s not even what he really … not even talking about defensively and everything else. He’s a dog, man. I’ve always told him when he was in Dallas that he’s a big glue to this team and they need you. So I’ve been telling them from the jump.”

Spencer Dinwiddie who came over with DFS in the Irving trade agreed with Bridges.

“He just shot the ball with confidence,” Dinwiddie said. “I mean he’s been doing the shot 40 percent from 3 for several seasons. He needs to keep doing it. Shoot the ball with confidence. With them, they tend to like to put Robert Williams on the four or one of the shooters instead of him guarding the five. That way they can still play their switching defense with the traditional pick and roll. And then he comes and cleans up the mess as guys drive.”

His head coach said he had recently spoken with Finney-Smith.

“I had a conversation with [Finney-Smith],” Vaughn told the media post-game. “Just letting him know that he is appreciated more than for making shots and tonight was a perfect example. That block that he had really ignited us and gave us a grimy, gritty feel on the road because of a play like that from Do.”

Indeed, both Bridges and Cam Johnson identified the second quarter block as a turning point in the game which saw the Nets go from being down 51-23 to a 10-point win. And his 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 2:23 left in the fourth turned out to be the dagger.

In the end, it’s only one game but it showed exactly why Sean Marks wanted him in the first place.