The Nets turned in one of their best all-around performances of the new-look era Friday during a 124-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The win comes with Brooklyn battling to avoid falling into the play-in for the second consecutive season.
3 key takeaways from Nets' blowout win over Hawks
3. Dorian Finney-Smith turns in best performance as a Net
It has been a struggle for Dorian Finney-Smith since coming to Brooklyn. The coveted three-and-D wing had been unable to find his rhythm offensively heading into the matchup with Atlanta, shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and 26 percent from three. You wouldn't have known it watching his performance Friday.
Finney-Smith posted his most efficient game as a Net, scoring 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting from three. The 29-year-old commended his teammates' belief in him following the breakout shooting night.”
“It feels good man, especially when the whole team is yelling at me when I turn down shots to stay aggressive,” he said postgame. “It feels good when you got guys who believe in you, so I appreciate them.”
Finney-Smith's defense was equally impressive. Brooklyn closed the first half on a 20-10 run to regain the lead with the wing as a small-ball five, a lineup they've found success with in numerous games.
Dorian Finney-Smith ERASED that Saddiq Bey attempt 😲pic.twitter.com/Li9A0kUJur
— Nets Nation (@NetsNationCP) March 31, 2023
Despite his offensive struggles, the former Maverick has proven instrumental on the defensive end in 23 games for the new-look Nets. Friday's performance could go a long way towards Finney-Smith returning to the Dallas offensive form that made him one of the league's most sought-after two-way wings in recent years.
2. Third-quarter explosion propels Brooklyn to victory
Third quarters had not been kind to the new-look Nets offensively through their first 21 games. Brooklyn ranked 27th in the league in field goal percentage (45.0) and 20th in three-point percentage (36.3) during the frame heading into Friday. They bucked that trend against Atlanta, turning in one of their best offensive quarters of the season in the third.
The Nets scored 42 points on 16 assists while shooting 15-of-24 from the field and 5-of-11 from three in the frame. Mikal Bridges accounted for 15 of those on 5-of-8 shooting. Bridges and co. frequently pushed the pace as they built a commanding lead, tallying 10 fastbreak points in the priod. Brooklyn also outrebounded Atlanta 12-5 on their way to a 6-0 second-chance points advantage.
Sweet on the reverse @mikal_bridges pic.twitter.com/0u57dT65jx
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 1, 2023
The Nets held the Hawks to 24 points in the quarter after a strong first-half defensive effort. They limited Hawks star Trae Young to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting on the night.
1. Mikal Bridges' stardom continues to grow
The term “star” has been thrown around plenty during Mikal Bridges' short time in Brooklyn. But after Friday's performance, the label feels more than justified. Bridges poured in a game-high 42 points on 16-of-24 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 from three.
Mikal for the 40-piece ‼️
Watch live on the NBA App
📺: https://t.co/1pomQZMAZK pic.twitter.com/GQVFmigXiN
— NBA (@NBA) April 1, 2023
The showing marks Bridges' third 40-point performance since being traded to the Nets. It also marks his 10th 30-plus point performance in 22 games after reaching the total just twice in four and a half years with Phoenix. The Villanova product has quickly built upon a hot stretch as a lead ball handler early this season with Devin Booker out, excelling as a three-level scoring threat in Brooklyn.
The 26-year-old is under contract for $70 million over the next three seasons. With the salary cap set to rise, that deal has potential to be the NBA's best value contract. Bridges was heralded as the centerpiece of Brooklyn's return in their blockbuster trade of Kevin Durant. He's exceeded expectations in dramatic fashion.
MVP chants for Mikal Bridges at Barclays.
He has 42 points on 16/24 shooting from the field and 5/9 from three. pic.twitter.com/8kv1H1VN2P
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) April 1, 2023
With the win, the Nets hold a commanding two-game lead (plus the tiebreaker) on the Miami Heat for the East's sixth seed with five games remaining. Brooklyn will be back in action Sunday for a home matchup with Utah Jazz.