It has not been the easiest of transitions for Brooklyn Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith.
“Man, (exhales deeply) it felt good to make some shots, man,” Finney-Smith told YES Network’s Mehann Triplett on March 3. Finney-Smith and the Nets pulled off the largest comeback in the NBA this season, overcoming a 28-point deficit to secure a 115-105 victory over the Boston Celtics.
The win snaps a four-game skid for the team and a personal slump for the 29-year-old Finney-Smith who entered the night averaging 6.1 points on 42.5% true shooting with 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists over his first eight appearances with the Nets.
He finished the win over Boston with 17 points, tied for third on the team with Spencer Dinwiddie and his high since both were traded from the Dallas Mavericks for Kyrie Irving on February 6.
“I just took my focus off my shot-making and just worried about winning,” Finney-Smith said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “And when you do that, it kind of takes the pressure off of making shots. …And I appreciate my teammates. They kept passing me the ball and kept telling me to shoot it even though I ain’t been making shots.”
Finney-Smith — who was 10-for-55 from three coming in — knocked down 5-of-11 looks.
“My boy Do, man, he was over getting in his head, getting upset about not making shots,” Mikal Bridges said of his new teammate via the Nets’ official YouTube channel. “I just told him it’s going to come. I played against him in Dallas in the playoffs – he hit eight threes and stuff. I know how [he] is shooting the ball, and I’m just like, ‘Just keep shooting it, you’re gonna find it.’ And he just stayed confident, trusted his work. And in a big moment, was making shots. And that’s what we’re going to need. And that’s just making shots. That’s not even talking about defensively and everything else.
“I mean he’s a dog man…I’ve always told him when he was in Dallas that you know he’s a big glue to this team and they need you’. So I’ve been telling that from the jump”
Finney-Smith’s defensive rating was 115 with the Mavericks this season, per Basketball-Reference. It jumped to 123 in his first eight Nets games and was 126 over his last four outings with his new club. It was 104 against the Celtics, his lowest mark yet in Brooklyn.
“I had a conversation with him, I think it was an off-day, he came in for treatment and he shot the basketball also,” Vaughn said via the team’s channel on YouTube. “Just the communication, the talk about how important he is beyond making shots for us — that that was going to happen. And he still got his work in but, at the same time, just letting him know that he is appreciated more than for making shots and tonight was a perfect example.”
“I’ve said…when he played for the Mavericks he just does a really good job of holding down the paint, protecting the rim, rebounding,” teammate Cameron Johnson said on the team’s channel. Even when you play small, he does a really good job of negating the issues that come with playing small. So, for him to have that kind of game tonight – hit shots, be a force in the paint, rebound ball – that’s huge for us going forward.
He was credited with holding Celtics star Jaylen Brown to 2-for-7 shooting including 1-for-3 from beyond the arc, per NBA.com matchup data.
Brown was 13-for-20 against the other Nets en route to a team-best 35 points.
Nets Defense Key to Offense
“When we get stops, we can get in transition and we get better looks,” Finney-Smith told Triplett. “It’s hard to get them looks when we got to walk it up every possession. So, we get stops, it makes the offense flow a lot better.”
Defense has been an issue for the Nets given their new starting lineup boasts four plus-defenders, explained Johnson.
“Defense in the NBA is a lot of ways to do it, and it’s all kind of on principles – principles, principles, principles,” Johnson said after the 129-127 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on February 26. “Some of the principles we have here in Brooklyn are almost complete opposite…once we kind of iron out those instances where you’re reacting a quarter of a second later, I think our defense will be a lot sharper.”
Perhaps their efforts against the Celtics can be that springboard.
“We got to build on it,” Finney-Smith asserted. “When we guard and help each other, we give ourselves a good chance to win. This is a great team.”
Nets Needed Dorian Finney-Smith to Break Out
Finney-Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $55.5 million pact and has a player option worth $15.3 million in 2026. They rejected trade offers for him at the deadline but could certainly look to revisit those discussions in the offseason.
“He just shot the ball with confidence,” Dinwiddie said via YES Network. “I mean he’s been doing the shot 40 percent from 3 for several seasons. He needs to keep doing it. Shoot the ball with confidence.
The 29-year-old is more of a piece for a title contender than a rebuilding squad.
How deep the Nets fall into the latter category remains to be seen. They have little reason to bottom out given their draft picks are controlled by the Houston Rockets.