He might have been dumped by the Phoenix Suns in their blockbuster trade for Kevin Durant, but Mikal Bridges is enjoying a hot start to life in Brooklyn – and showing his former team exactly what they lost.
Bridges demolished his career-high with 45 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in a massive performance to lead the Nets past the Miami Heat 116-105.
Bridges shot 17-of-23 field goal attempts including four of six from deep, and at one point drained 13 of Brooklyn’s points in a row.
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Making it even more remarkable was the fact that it was just his third game with his new team, with the home fans repeatedly cheering ‘Brooklyn Bridges’ in support of their new star.
Bridges had been used in Phoenix almost exclusively as a ‘3 and D’ player, but his offensive explosion proved that he is capable of much more than that limited role.
In the wake of the departures of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, he is also the second player to pass 40 points in a game, after Cam Thomas – the 21 year old who had 19 points today in just 21 minutes, but had 40-plus points in three-straight games earlier this month.
Thomas added four assists and two rebounds, while Cameron Johnson had 18 points.
The duo’s offensive output in recent games looms as a silver lining for the Nets after the departures of scoring machines Durant and Irving.
Asked about the identity of the rebuilding Brooklyn squad, Bridges replied: “Just playing together, all 48 minutes, five guys, especially on the defensive end – I think we can be a force down there. Once we get stops, all of us can play in transition.
“Just starting on the defensive end and getting out and scoring.”
Australia’s Ben Simmons was the first man to come off the bench for the Nets, but was booed by his own fans as he did so.
However, he showed promising
signs on the court, including a brilliant three-quarter
pass to Bridges at the end of the third quarter for the quick score.
Simmons finished with four rebounds, four assists, and two points in his 20 minutes.
Elsewhere, LaMelo Ball had 28 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds (season-high) to lead the Charlotte Hornets past San Antonio 120-110 – the 14th consecutive loss for the Spurs.
The 76ers beat the Cavaliers 118-112 as Joel Embiid added 14 rebounds and five assists to his 29 points, while James Harden had 19 points and 12 assists. Donovan Mitchell had 33 points and Darius Garland 27 for Cleveland, who fought back in the second half after entering the big break down 25 points.
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Indiana beat Chicago 117-113, fighting back from a nightmare first quarter where they were down by 24 points to hand the Bulls a fifth-straight loss. Buddy Hield led the way with 27 points, while Aaron Nesmith had 21 points and seven rebounds and Miles Turner added 17 points and nine rebounds. Zach Lavine had 35 points for the Bulls to go with 11 boards and seven assists, while Coby White had 25 points and Nikola Vucevic 19 points and seven rebounds.
LaVine also responded to rumours that the Bulls would pursue a deal for Russell Westbrook, saying: “Russ is a future Hall of Famer. You can only respect what he’s done in this league. Any player who happens to come on the team, we’ll welcome with open arms. … He’s a fierce competitor. You can do nothing but respect that.”
It was the second-biggest blown lead of the NBA season, and the biggest first-quarter deficit overcome since 2008.