THE Brooklyn nets I couldn’t wait to put a dub on their previous loss to the short-handed Charlotte Hornets. After taking a 43-22 lead with Mikal Bridges branded kerosene, they never looked back, defeating the Orlando Magic by a final score of 129-101.
Brooklyn Bridges finished the contest with 42 points while shooting 12 of 20 from the field. He came away with three blocks as well, reminding those who managed to forget his two-way prowess. After a repeat performance on Thursday, Spencer Dinwiddie also added 22 points with three assists while making 8 of 15 on field goals.
The Nets’ win brings them to 10-9 nearly a quarter of the way through the 2023-24 campaign. Trading wins for losses, even sometimes three times in a row, reflects Brooklyn’s season so far – filled with conflicting ups and downs, but overall slightly positive.
Last night was one of the “highs” as Brooklyn ended Orlando’s nine-game winning streak. It’s something the Nets and their fans are celebrating on this lazy, rainy Sunday. To celebrate, here are three things to remember.
This team knows how to fight back
Nothing about Thursday’s loss to the Hornets suited Brooklyn. The normally animated Jacque Vaughn finished his speech with us after just three minutes, looking just as frustrated as he did on the field. Mikal Bridges also shared this disappointed look after the match.
After such a gloomy evening, you have to be on the lookout for a strong rebound effort. You want to see your team get up off the mat and fight back. They didn’t wear the stars and stripes on their shorts and I didn’t hear any Bill Conti music in the arena, but Vaughn, Bridges and the rest of the team played like a first-rate Rocky Balboa.
The decks came out, throwing away the haystacks. He scored 26 points in the first quarter, the most by an NBA player in a game opener since Luka Doncic poured in 28 on the Los Angeles Clippers in a February 2022 contest.
“I just didn’t like that loss to Charlotte,” Bridges said. “It’s like that, I just want to win. It’s me who scores like that. It is what it is. But I just didn’t want to lose this match.
Bridges was animated throughout his explosive performance. You could just tell he wanted to be out there, he wanted to score and he wanted to right the wrongs of Thursday night’s team. Orlando was just the only poor man in his way that he should put in the ground by doing this.
Brooklyn’s defense, which became a notable talking point after allowing .505/.583/1.00 splits to Charlotte, also weighed down the Magic with body shots all night. Simply put, the energy was there, as blocking shots and deflecting passes seemed like a fun habit for Brooklyn rather than a chore.
Orlando shot just 40.2% from the field and 31.0% from deep as well – a necessary drop from what Brooklyn allowed against Charlotte. They also enjoyed a +21 rebounding differential two days from Vaughn calling their effort on the glass “unacceptable.”
To be fair, this may have been a hand-picked fight for Brooklyn. The Magic played this one in the second half of a back-to-back game without Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter Jr. You could tell they were out of breath – often lacking jump shots and failing to finish around the cylinder.
However, the Nets have always met all your expectations. They didn’t get a split decision victory. They eliminated Orlando. This might be Brooklyn’s best display of resilience this year considering how they brought everything they didn’t against Charlotte.
Welcome back Dennis Smith Jr.
Between the injury sagas of Ben Simmons and Cam Thomas, it became easy to lose track of Dennis Smith Jr. The Brooklyn backup had missed six straight games for the Nets with a lower back sprain, but returned Saturday against Orlando.
Smith Jr. delivered a strong and energetic performance, in keeping with the team’s aforementioned “punch back” attitude. He added 10 points while shooting 5-10 from the field. He also dished out six assists, had 11 rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot.
Even just from a health standpoint, Smith Jr. looked fantastic. He ran the floor, got up to contest shots and finished his own. Nets fans know all too well how tricky back issues can be, but Smith showed no signs of lingering pain as he flew across the court…
“I’m a savage,” Smith Jr. said after the game. Simple, but true. Well said DSJ.
Charity Stripe becomes popular
Aside from his strong defense, Bridges’ ability to get to the line last night was the most underrated element of his assault against Orlando. This could also indicate that something bigger is in the works for the Nets.
Bridges shot 15-18 from the free throw line, frequently using his quick first step to beat Orlando defenders and then make them pay for their misguided recovery attempts.
But he’s not the only Net to make the charity strip his second home lately. Spencer Dinwiddie made 10 of 10 free throws to help Brooklyn advance to Toronto earlier this week. While it hasn’t always translated into free throws, there has been a visible effort on his part to initiate contact and take whistles this year.
Generally speaking, Brooklyn’s free throw line has been collecting a lot of dust this year. The Nets are averaging just 19.8 attempts per game, the third-lowest mark in the league behind the spiraling and rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies. San Antonio Spurs.
But over their last three games, they’ve hit that mark up to 24 per game, putting them in the top half of the league for that stat.
You won’t find a bigger person than me, “no one wants to watch guys shoot free throws all day.” But considering how important the Nets are to dictating the pace of a game, I like this as a development.
If they are unable to run and shoot, being able to manufacture points on the line is a good safety. Expect them to continue working for whistles, especially if their offense stalls at some point in future games.