The Brooklyn Nets were in a prime position to pick up their fourth win in five games after taking a two-point lead over the Atlanta Hawks with 22 seconds remaining Wednesday at State Farm Arena. However, as he did in Brooklyn's November 22 overtime loss at Atlanta, Trae Young would attempt to play spoiler, coming down the floor and draining a step-back three to give the Hawks the lead.

Without hesitation, Nets forward Mikal Bridges flashed towards the in-bounder to collect the ball, with Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn showing no intention of calling a timeout. Bridges dribbled down the floor, came off a screen, stepped back, and drilled a pull-up jumper to regain the lead for Brooklyn.

Young would receive the ball again out of an Atlanta timeout but could not convert on a difficult floater, sealing a 114-113 Nets win.

Mikal Bridges' clutch gene evident

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Mikal Bridges finished the game with 32 points, five rebounds, and six assists on 12-of-19 shooting. His final jumper represented the 43rd lead change between Brooklyn and Atlanta, the most in any NBA game since play-by-play was first tracked in 1996-97, per Elias Sports.

“Coach Jacque just trusted us and let us go play so they couldn't set anything up defensively,” Bridges said of his game-winner. “Nic [Claxton] set a good screen and I just tried to get to my spot and end it.”

After a slow start to 2023-24, Bridges is forcing his way into the All-Star conversation while regaining the elite play he displayed after his trade to the Nets last season. His performance Wednesday caps a 10-game stretch in which he has averaged 26.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 53/51/86 shooting splits.

After Bridges averaged 27.7 points on 47/38/89 shooting splits in 30 games with the Nets to close last season, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks alluded to clutch shotmaking as the next step in the 27-year-old's progression.

“I think that a few people have had their eyes open to what he can do,” Marks said. “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?”

Twenty games into the season, Bridges leads the NBA with 21 clutch field goals (final five minutes of games within five points), leading Brooklyn to a 6-5 record in clutch games, per stats. The second-year Net has shot 55.3 percent on 38 clutch field goal attempts, the league's second-best percentage among 10 players to attempt 25 or more, trailing only LeBron James (65.5 percent on 29 field goal attempts).

“The confidence [has stood out],” Vaughn said of Bridges' clutch play. “He's really not panicking. He's diagnosing the situation, making some adjustments from it, and then being ok with the results… You have to be in those situations. You can't watch it on film, you can't simulate it in practice. When you're in those situations there's a feeling to it, there's a moment to it, there's a dedication to it, there is a responsibility to it.

“He's really been answering the challenge, and we'll continue to put him in those situations. You just continue to grow from them, and he's doing that.”

Following the win, his first ever at Atlanta (0-6 prior), Bridges commended his teammates and coaching staff for building his confidence in clutch moments.

“I'm very confident. I think my coaches and teammates give me that confidence to go out there and be that guy to make those shots,” Bridges said. “When you have that feeling of everybody around you being confident in you, you get that extra confidence in yourself.”

“I’m just appreciative to have everybody by my side. It just gets me going.”

Wednesday's win brings Brooklyn to 11-9 on the season, with Bridges' consistent two-way play leading the way amid extended absences to Ben Simmons, Cam Thomas, Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton.

The Nets will have an opportunity to gain more breathing room over .500 when they host the Washington Wizards Friday before departing on a five-game West Coast trip with stops in Sacramento, Phoenix, Denver, Golden State and Utah.