In an always important Game Two in the NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 118-108 to take a two-game lead in the series. Although Devin Booker led the way for the Suns in scoring with 31 points, forward Mikal Bridges had a breakout game that jolted Phoenix to the win.
Bridges, who has taken a smaller scoring role in the playoffs, scored an important 27 points on Thursday night. Bridges is known for his three-point shooting. On Thursday however, he only shot 3/9 from the arc. He found his shot by slashing to the rim, finishing around the basket, or pulling up for a jump shot. He ended the night shooting 56% from the field. He also reached the free-throw line eight times and made every attempt.
Monty Williams has said throughout the playoffs that he’s wanted Bridges to get more touches and shot attempts. Williams sees the potential impact that he can have on the game, one that was seen tonight.
“He had balance. He wasn’t just taking contested shots,” said Coach Williams, “when they ran him off the three-point line, he did a great job of finding his spot.”
Defensively as well, Bridges was fantastic. He spent the majority of the game guarding either Jrue Holiday or Khris Middleton, who both struggled to hit their shots due to Bridges’ denying defense. The defense of Bridges and Jae Crowder on the two Olympians made them both non-factors in a must-win game for the bucks. Even with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo having a signature game with 42 points, the forward’s ability to take out Holiday and Middleton led to the Suns taking control of the series.
“He’s always guarding the dynamic scorer on the other team,” said Devin Booker. “Middleton is not an easy guard. For him to have his focus defensively, it takes a lot of pressure off everyone.”
Bridges has had two straight games of productivity in the Finals after a rather quiet series in the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers. According to Monty Williams, Bridges is the type of guy who can bounce back after struggles. He’s done that here in this postseason. This could be due to his experience at Villanova where Bridges won a National Championship in 2018. He understands how he fits onto a championship roster and plays his role exactly to how his coaches and teammates ask him to, no matter his performance the night or game before.
“Mikal is just a winner,” said point guard Chris Paul, “he’s going to do exactly what he needs to do, either offensively or defensively.”
Every team in the NBA needs a player like Mikal Bridges. Bridges embodies what it means to be a three-and-D player and is starting to spread almost beyond that. At only 24, Bridges still has a lot of growing to do. However, not just in these playoffs but throughout the season, Bridges has taken steps to become an important piece to the Suns team that is two games away from bringing the title to Phoenix for the first time in its history. Bridges will look to continue to look to be aggressive in Game Three in Milwaukee on Sunday night.
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