HomeBasketball TodayCam Johnson from the Nets shuts down doubters of Mikal Bridges with...

Cam Johnson from the Nets shuts down doubters of Mikal Bridges with impressive performance against Hawks

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Cam Johnson backs up his teammate, Mikal Bridges.

The Brooklyn Nets may not have admitted it, but their season was on the line entering this week’s pair of matchups with the Atlanta Hawks. A 2-8 stretch dropped them four games back of Atlanta for the final spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament ahead of the mini-series.

Times were desperate, and interim head coach Kevin Ollie’s squad finally played like it. After dominating the Hawks during a 124-97 wire-to-wire win Thursday, the Nets posted a convincing 114-102 victory Saturday before a sellout crowd at Barclays Center.

Facing a seven-point deficit after the first quarter, Brooklyn outscored Atlanta 91-74 over the final three periods, holding the Hawks to 13-of-42 shooting (31 percent) and forcing eight turnovers in the second half. After being outscored 88-18 in fastbreak points over three losses under interim head coach Kevin Ollie, the Nets held the Hawks to zero Saturday.

“Force. That’s what changed, playing with force on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Ollie said of his team’s second-half performance. “They just hunted, and it was just great to see them hunt like that… We got stops when we needed it. In the second half, they scored 40 points and had zero transition points.

“That’s showing growth on our team and I always want us to have a growth mindset, not a survival mindset. I just want them to continue to play with that energy and effort, play together.”

The three-ball fueled the Nets offensively for the second straight game, with Brooklyn shooting 15-of-32 from distance (47 percent). They posted 28 assists while limiting themselves to 11 turnovers, a primary focus of the coaching staff after Tuesday’s blowout loss at Orlando.

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Mikal Bridges led the charge, scoring a game-high 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting from the field and 5-of-10 from three.

Cam Johnson speaks out on Mikal Bridges’ big game

The elite showing follows a season-worst stretch for Bridges, with the forward shooting 2-of-25 from distance over three games before the pair of Hawks matchups. Following the win, Cam Johnson called out Mikal Bridges’ critics and said his longtime teammate has no issues tuning them out.

“All that stuff’s background noise, man,” Johnson said. “He’s a professional. He shows up every day, doesn’t miss a practice, doesn’t miss a game, and people want to say something about that, people say something about a couple of missed shots. He’s played in 400, 500 straight games — a lot of credit to him. He don’t let it bother him. He went out there and did his thing today.”

After posting a season-high 29 points Thursday, Johnson scored 23 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, 4-of-7 from three, and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line. Dennis Schroder continued to look more comfortable while manning the point in his ninth game with Brooklyn, posting 14 points and eight assists.

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Nic Claxton turned in a high-level two-way showing, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals on 5-of-8 shooting.

The pair of wins marks the Nets’ first winning streak since January 27-29. Brooklyn now sits two games behind Atlanta for the 10th place in the East and holds the season tiebreaker.

Ollie’s squad will have a prime opportunity to re-join the play-in picture over the next week with intriguing matchups against the Memphis Grizzlies, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets ahead.

“I think it was everybody. Everybody’s voice and everybody knowing these are two important games,” Bridges said of the pair of wins. “Obviously, now the rest of these games are super important too, but at this moment, it was kind of like a little playoff series… Knowing we need these two big wins, it just shows the fight. We just gotta keep it throughout the rest of the season. We just gotta keep fighting.

“It might not be perfect and obviously you might not win every game, but as long as we’re playing hard and playing the right way, I like our outcomes and I like out chances.”

Erik Slater_headshot

About the Author

Erik Slater is the credentialed Brooklyn Nets beat reporter for ClutchPoints. He’s a graduate of Lehigh University and the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, as well as a Lehigh Football and Syracuse Football alum.


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