Mikal Bridges' Game 5 Leads to Michael Jordan Meme, Suns HC Wishes to 'Clone' HimApril 27, 2022
Mikal Bridges, welcome to the land of NBA Twitter playoff hyperbole.
The Suns forward stepped up in a massive way Tuesday night, putting up 31 points, five rebounds and two assists while adding four blocks and a steal on the defensive end to help lead Phoenix to a 112-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Coming off a disappointing eight-point performance, Bridges was active on both ends of the floor, taking over the lead scoring role from an injured Devin Booker. But it was his lockdown defense on CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram that drew the overwhelming amount of applause.
Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA
Mikal Bridges tonight:<br><br>31 points on 17 shots<br><br>Defended CJ McCollum for 36 plays, held him to 10 points on 3/11 shooting<br><br>Defended Brandon Ingram for 34 plays, held him to 7 points on 2/5 plus 3 turnovers<br><br>All that in 46:54 of playing time<br><br>Extraordinary performance for the Suns.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Mikal Bridges was a lockdown defender in Game 5. He held the Pelicans to 7 points on 3-of-17 shooting as the primary defender.<br><br>In the series, New Orleans is shooting 36% from the floor and has turned the ball over 12 times when Bridges is defending. <a href="https://t.co/EEMHJAafkw">pic.twitter.com/EEMHJAafkw</a>
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Mikal Bridges is the 7th player in NBA history to have 30 points, 4 made threes, and 4 blocks in a playoff game.<br><br>The others? LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and Vince Carter. <a href="https://t.co/cOb4zBHNAK">pic.twitter.com/cOb4zBHNAK</a>
The four-year, $90 million contract extension Bridges signed with the Suns before the season is already looking like a bargain. He continued his emergence as a two-way force during the regular season and narrowly finished second behind Marcus Smart in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
"You can't clone him, but you wish you could," Suns coach Monty Williams said after the game. "He's just one of those rare basketball players that can play that way on defense, but also give you the point production that he gave tonight. ... He's learned how to use his length to his advantage. To play that kind of defense and only have one foul says a lot about his IQ."
"You can't clone him, but you wish you could. He's just one of those rare basketball players that can play that way on defense, but also give you the point production that he gave tonight"<a href="https://twitter.com/Suns?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Suns</a> Head Coach Monty Williams on the play of Mikal Bridges. <a href="https://t.co/AglHpp4Qh7">pic.twitter.com/AglHpp4Qh7</a>
The Suns will need Bridges to continue with his two-way brilliance if they hope to survive the loss of Booker, who is expected to miss at least two weeks with a hamstring injury. Phoenix struggled to generate offense in Game 4 without its leading scorer but seemed to find a rhythm on the back of Bridges in Game 5.
If he can string together back-to-back 30-point outings to close out the series, maybe those MJ comparisons won't seem so much like hyperbole. (OK, they will. But it's Twitter. Everything is hyperbole.)