Just what does Brooklyn Nets star Cameron Johnson’s strong performance against the Miami Heat mean going forward?
“Once he gets in a rhythm, trust me I’ve been a witness of it for years, and he don’t get out of them,” Mikal Bridges told reporters in a video on the YES Network’s YouTube channel after the Nets 129-110 win over the Miami Heat on March 25.
“I know Cam – my twin for so long – and it’s just, he’s built for the moment, anytime. I love to go to battle with him on the court…It’s crazy, I don’t even feel like he struggles because I feel like every time he shoots it, it goes in. So, when he was missing, I feel like they were all good looks so I just kind of brush it away. So Just happy for him confidence-wise because we all know he can shoot the heck out of the ball. And he was just doing everything – putting it on the floor, creating, doing what he does. And I’m just happy for him just getting that rhythm.”
Johnson knocked down 5-of-8 threes against Miami, sinking more triples against the Heat than he had in the previous three games combined.
He has been consistent, scoring double-digit points in all but two of his previous 17 games. This wasn’t even his highest-scoring performance with Brooklyn to date. But the typically reliable floor-spacer has shot just 34% from downtown as a Net.
“Just sticking with it, putting in the work, and just trusting it,” Johnson told YES Network Nets reporter Meghan Triplett in his walk-off interview. “I felt we had a good energy today, a good juice about our team. Guys were playing hard, covering for each other and everybody feeds off that.”
It was the kind of well-round performance that Brides and Nets head coach, Jacque Vaughn, has come to expect and appreciate even when the shots have not been falling with the usual efficiency Johnson – a 39% career three-point shooter – has shown.
Now that they are falling, however, it is certainly to the Nets’ advantage.
“It just makes us more lethal,” Vaughn said via the YES Network on YouTube. “Because they’re already focused on Nic [Claxton] rolling to the rim, they’re already focused on what is Mikal and Spencer [Dinwiddie] going to do on each possession, and we’re able to capitalize and get CJ open. He was knocking down shots for us. I think he felt good about himself tonight. And just another weapon for us.”
It could have been all about Johnson but he set a different tone.
Cameron Johnson Shift Focus to Nic Claxton
“A big part of it is Claxton,” Johnson told Triplett. “He covers up so much stuff in the paint. He was flying around – contesting shots, blocking shots, rebounding the ball. That get’s us out in transition. That gets us getting some easy threes, easy layups. And I thought that was big for us tonight.”
Brooklyn started the second half down by three points. On the opening possession of the third quarter, Claxton went up to reject Heat big man Bam Adebayo for his second block of the evening helping spark a 39-18 third quarter to the Nets’ advantage.
The fourth-year big man has been outspoken in recent days about needing help on the boards.
He got that in this one as the Nets outrebounded the Heat 45-32, much to the dismay of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra who described the second half as an “avalanche”.
Vaughn was pleased with the team’s effort.
“It was a prime example of guys pulling for each other,” Vaughn said. “Whether it was pulling for [Dorian Finney-Smith] to hit some threes to get some offensive rebounds, whether it was the match-up of Bam and Nic, and then us coming back to rebound. So, to have the board effort that we did tonight from a lot of guys [is] impressive because that just helps us balance our shot discrepancy but this group was extremely poised tonight.”
Mikal Bridges Praises Edmond Sumner’s Perseverance
Bridges – who led the team with 27 points adding seven assists, three boards, and two steals, also – also had high regard for reserve guard Edmond Sumner’s efforts. The seldom-used Sumner chipped in 12 points off the bench.
“I think Ed…just bringing energy and everything, it was great,” Bridges said. “Shoot, I’ve been knowing Ed since our freshman year in college. He just works hard, man. He’s had some injuries set [him] back but he never lost his spirit. Even being around him when he’s not playing every day, his spirit’s still high. He’s still grateful. I think it also helps that he had a kid, just kind of making him more grateful about life. And just how he carries himself like a true pro.”
Sumner saw action for the first time in four games and just the third time since the trade deadline on February 9.
He was still ready and able to provide a spark in this one including right before the break.
“Ed’s finish at the rim to send us into halftime just made us feel good about ourselves,” said Vaughn.”
Sumner came away with a hip injury but said after the game that he would be “ready to go”.