Mikal Bridges’ deep sigh pierced through the deafening silence wafting about the home locker room as he walked from his locker to the bathroom.
He blew it — and he knew it.
“I love my guys to death and I told them, that’s on me, I’m sorry I couldn’t come through and just win some games,” he said. “I just wanted to make some shots but I promised them I’ll be better next time.”
The Nets thrust Bridges into the No. 1 scoring option role when they acquired him in the deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns. After averaging 27 points per game in Brooklyn in the second half of the regular season, the Sixers slowed him down.
Bridges shot 43 percent from the field in his four-game playoff series. His only efficient basketball came in the first half of Game 1 before Sixers head coach Doc Rivers game planned against him as the lead scorer.
Bridges shot 10-of-16 from the field in the first half of that game. He only got two more shot attempts in the second half of Game 1 and shot 21-of-69 from the field in Games 2 through 4.
A whopping 30% from the field.
Bridges shot just 6-of-18 from the field in Saturday’s decisive Game 4, including an airball on an open corner three-point attempt as the Sixers pulled away late in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve just gotta be better. I feel like these past games, I’ve been letting my team down,” he said postgame. “I hate not trying to win a game for them. It hurts me as I’m just trying but it’s part of it, man. It’s part of it, just own up to it and realize all you can is just get better. Get ready to get better, that’s the biggest thing for me.”
Bridges, who looked gassed as he totaled 40 minutes played on Saturday, said he needs to get better across the board.
“Obviously I’ll be pissed off and upset about it, but life goes on,” he continued. “Get in better shape, being on offense, having the ball a little bit more. Just doing that and guarding the best guys. This offseason: get in even more shape and keep working on my game in all aspects of playmaking, everything else.”
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said he tried to trim Bridges’ minutes in Game 4, but it was difficult to do so since Bridges gave the team the best chance to win.
“We’re talking about a young man that’s growing in front of our eyes, and he got a chance to see it and a chance to be called upon in the fourth quarter and have to produce when you’re guarding the best player on the other team,” Vaughn said postgame. “Great learning experience that we can’t replicate unless he goes through it. And he’s gonna grow from it and he’s gonna be a better player from it.
“I’m gonna be able to look back on this and talk to him this summer about what this felt like, what it looks like going forward, because he’s a part of it. So he’ll embrace it. He’ll be better and he’ll be, can look forward to watching him in this position again.”
Bridges said his biggest takeaway this season has been learning how to make the right decision every single play.
“Even if you don’t get a couple of shots up, if you feel like you’ve not been getting those attempts, to still try to find the right play besides just jacking one just to get one up,” he said. “I think I just learned, just for everybody out there, change happens. You know, change ain’t fun, change is tough, just in life in general. And just, what are you going to do about it?
“I think we just, we came in, everybody got traded, you know, different team, different look. And we gave it all we got. We got better, we won games, we got to the sixth seed and stayed away from the Play-In and made it to the playoffs without just dropping all the way out. I just think the basic thing I learned: When times get tough, like, what are you going to do? And I think all of us that came in, and players over here as well, things just got different and everybody just gave the extra bit and just kept going and had a hell of a half-a-season.”