Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, aka “The Twins”, were heralded at the trade deadline as the centerpieces of the Nets’ return for Kevin Durant. Bridges has made headlines during a breakout stretch with Brooklyn, averaging 26.8 points on 49/92/91 shooting splits.
But it has been Johnson who led the Nets to a pair of crucial wins during their last three games with Brooklyn fighting to secure a playoff spot. Johnson scored 23 points Saturday at Miami before dropping a game-high 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 from three Wednesday vs. Houston.
Cam Johnson over his last nine games:
Impressive stretch after some early struggles. pic.twitter.com/wCajOqEWqg
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) March 30, 2023
After struggling in his opening weeks with Brooklyn, Johnson has averaged 16.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 47/40/92 shooting splits over his last nine games. The hot stretch has coincided with increased ball-handling and playmaking responsibilities, something Johnson was only used for sparingly while playing a complementary role alongside Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Bridges in Phoenix.
Head coach Jacque Vaughn had high praise for the 26-year-old’s adjustment to the increased usage following Wednesday’s win:
“He really has (blossomed),” Vaughn said. “He’s starting for us and playing more minutes than his previous destination. We’ve allowed him to shoot the basketball more than he did previously. He’s handling the basketball in the pick-and-roll. The first play out of halftime was for him and he makes the right decision with it. So we’re really putting more in his hands and he’s responding.”
Cam Johnson became a fan favorite while coming off the bench during his first three seasons with the Suns, shooting 39.6 percent from three on 5.5 attempts per game. However, the sharpshooter said he continued to develop his skills as a ball handler and playmaker in limited opportunities:
“In the NBA, you come in and you do your job. You work on everything; you work on being a well-rounded basketball player,” he said Wednesday. “Sometimes your job description on the court might be a little different from what you had in high school and college. So it’s things that I consistently work on and I try to get better at every day.”
“It’s good to be in positions where I can have the ball in my hands and make decisions and make reads and improve my game.”
Johnson said his increased usage in Brooklyn’s starting lineup has aided his, as well as his new teammates’, development:
“That’s part of the beauty of the situation is that these last 20 games have given myself and Mikal and Spencer (Dinwiddie) and Dorian (Finney-Smith) a lot of space to grow,” he said. “We’re figuring out a lot on the fly but I think we’ll be better because of it.”
Johnson’s offensive brilliance in Brooklyn’s comeback wins over the Heat and Rockets has given the Nets a firm grasp on the East’s sixth seed. And Bridges recently commended his longtime teammate’s ability to step up when his team needed him most:
“He’s built for the moment,” Bridges said of Johnson following the Miami win. “We all know he can shoot the heck out of the ball… Once he gets in the rhythm, trust me I’ve been a witness of it for years, he don’t get out of them.”
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