Will Hardy Name-Drops Mikal Bridges After Nets Beat Jazz

Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Mikal Bridges #1 of the Brooklyn Nets.

It took until the very last second but the Brooklyn Nets came away with a 111-110 win over the Utah Jazz thanks in no small part to Mikal Bridges once again.

“Free throws, earlier in the game, were a bit of an issue for us – fouling,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy noted during his postgame media availability via NBA.com. “Mikal Bridges obviously got away from us shooting 13 of them.”

That Bridges was able to notch 11 of his team-high 30 points at the charity stripe (on 13 attempts). He shot poorly, going just 9-for-25 from the floor overall and 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. Still, he attacked his way to his fifth straight game with at least 27 points and his third time going for at least 30 points in the last four games.

Bridges shot 11 of his free throws in the third quarter, sinking nine of them.

The Nets’ budding star ranks 15th in the NBA in free-throw attempts per game since the All-Star break.

“I think there’s an art to getting to the basket and drawing fouls without flopping and being a detriment to the rules of the game,” Jacque Vaughn said during his postgame availability. “I thought he turned the corner a bunch of times. He’s learning how to receive contact and also be in the shooting motion. So I thought they were legit fouls called tonight. He’s learning when to attack…There’s an intelligence also to drawing fouls that he is becoming aware of and just a smarter basketball player.”

Bridges’ previous career-high for free throws per game was 1.9 set just this past season but he has more than doubled what would have already been a career-best 3.1 attempts per game with the Suns to 6.9 with the Nets.

“We want him to shoot double-digit free throws,” Vaughn said.

Mikal Bridges Sees Growth in His Game

For his part, Bridges seems to fully recognize the growth in his game and continues to point to the same source for his blueprint.

“Just growth, just learning, learning the game,” Bridges said on the NBA’s official website. “I had two guys in Phoenix right now that I watched a lot and how they draw fouls and get to the paint. And I’ve guarded guys who can get fouls, especially on me, so I kind of know how to get foul calls a little bit. But, yeah, just growth too. Just a lot of film and just a lot of practice of just being out there and trying to read the game. But it’s a lot just with growth and learning and just watching as well.”

Bridges has fully embraced the role of lead dog for this random group of parts.

He is 12th in the NBA in points per game since the break, and over the last six games he is averaging 33.7 points on 50% shooting and 44% from downtown.

Jacque Vaughn Compared Defense to Playing Football

Still, the Jazz almost came back with Brooklyn needing a miss from Jazz big man Kelly Olynyk to seal the deal. As random of a situation as that may have seemed, it was by design according to Vaughn.

“I just think over the course of a game, there’s some dudes who are built to make shots, some aren’t. In the fourth quarter also, shots may look a little differently. Role players’ shots may look a little differently. Those dudes who bring it every night, they can bring it every night. So we want to get that ball out of their hands.

“We’re hoping that it makes those other guys try to make plays they aren’t used to making. And then you ask can they make those plays over and over again? Maybe one-off they can. But are they built to do that thing over and over again from the first quarter to the fourth quarter?”

Jazz star Lauri Markkanen finished with 23 points but struggled to get there going 8-for-21 from the floor and 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. But it was not enough as, to Vaughn’s point, a role player in Olynyk was unable to come through when it mattered most.

Utah got a huge night from Talen Horton-Tucker who had 32 points – including 15 points in that fourth-quarter surge – with eight assists and four rebounds.

To Vaughn’s point, it didn’t matter as Olynyk was unable to come through when it mattered most.