Mikal Bridges, Nets playing solid heading to Houston
The expected demise of the Brooklyn Nets following the jettisoning of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant has not manifested as forecast, with forward Mikal Bridges largely responsible for the Nets' refusal to wilt.
The Nets improved to 4-6 since the trade deadline with their 102-86 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday for their second consecutive double-digit victory following a four-game losing skid.
Brooklyn will look to extend its modest winning streak on Tuesday against the Houston Rockets who, despite snapping an 11-game losing skid on Saturday, remain in the cellar of the Western Conference standings. The teams will meet again on March 29 in Brooklyn.
Instead of plummeting from the playoff picture after trading Irving and Durant to Dallas and Phoenix, respectively, the Nets entered Monday with a three-game lead over Miami for sixth in the Eastern Conference, a position that would allow Brooklyn to avoid the play-in tournament.
Bridges paired 33 points with eight rebounds in the win over the Hornets and is averaging 26.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists with a 60.9 effective field-goal percentage in nine games with the Nets. He averaged 17.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists with a 52.9 effective field-goal percentage in 56 games with the Suns before joining Brooklyn as part of the Durant trade.
Since coming to the Nets, Bridges has scored 30-plus points four times after doing so twice in his 365 previous games. He had 38 points and 10 boards in a win over Boston last Friday.
"My teammates just kind of found me," Bridges said of his scoring barrage against the Hornets. "I was just trying to be aggressive and make a play."
The Rockets have enjoyed a collective scoring surge of late, fashioning back-to-back wins against the San Antonio Spurs over the weekend to notch consecutive victories for the first time in more than a month.
After amassing 30 fast-break points in a 12-point victory in San Antonio on Saturday, the Rockets scored 34 points in transition in their 142-110 home win on Sunday. Eight Rockets scored in double figures in the first victory and seven did so in the season-series finale, paced by Jalen Green, who totaled 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Houston finished with 29 assists.
Despite their abundant athleticism, the Rockets haven't mastered playing with pace. Against the Spurs, they flashed how potent their offense can be when they run with purpose and abandon.
"We have an unselfish group for the most part," Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. "We have a group that wants to do the right thing. We're just young so sometimes that gets in our way, but when the ball is moving, everybody gets a piece, everybody is feeling good.
"And again, it starts on the defensive end. If we can get some stops and get some steals or get some rebounds and get the ball up the floor and get the fast-break points that we've had the past couple of games ... that keeps everybody in the game."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 6, 2023