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NY Post
New York Post
1 Apr 2023


NextImg:Dorian Finney-Smith back in the groove after slow Nets start

Dorian Finney-Smith finally broke out as a Net, and perhaps unlocked a valuable new lineup in the process.

In Friday’s 124-107 win over the Hawks, he enjoyed by far his best game since arriving from the Mavericks as part of the Kyrie Irving trade.

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Finney-Smith also provided Brooklyn with a pivotal new look.

Finney-Smith entered having scored 6.4 points per game and was shooting just 31 percent from the field and a lowly 26 percent from 3-point range in 22 games as a Net as he struggled to get acclimated to his new team.

It was a steep drop-off from his production with Dallas, where he was shooting 42 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc along with 9.1 points per game in 40 contests this season.

Dorian Finney-Smith goes to the basket against Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson.
AP

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As the Nets rode a third-quarter outburst to a critical win, Finney-Smith poured in 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the arc along with eight rebounds.

It was his highest-scoring output as a Net, and his most-efficient shooting night from the field.

“It feels good, man,” Finney-Smith said following Friday night’s win about his four 3-pointers. “Especially when the whole team is yelling at me when I turn down shots to stay aggressive. It feels good when you got guys who believe in you, so I appreciate them.”

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It was his performance on the other end of the court that might have been most valuable, however.

The Nets’ turned the game around in the second quarter before blowing it open after halftime.

Coach Jacque Vaughn opted for a small-ball lineup that featured Finney-Smith as a makeshift center for much of the run, and it proved extremely fruitful.

Brooklyn closed the first half on a 20-10 run to regain the lead with Finney-Smith at center.

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Finney-Smith more than held his own anchoring the defense, including a highlight-reel block of Saddiq Bey, and provided the Nets additional floor spacing on the offensive end.

Normally, backup center Day’Ron Sharpe would fill those minutes while starter Nic Claxton rests, but Vaughn now seemingly has a new alternative.

Finney-Smith finished a team-high plus-32, while Sharpe’s was a team-low minus-17.

“When I go to the five I just try to use it as an advantage, especially my energy,” Finney-Smith said after the game. “I can get up and down the court fast and I can guard one through five. It just gave them a different look. [Sharpe] did his job tonight, but they were making some tough shots and when they send me out there they kind of don’t ice it on me that much, so it just gave them a different look.”

Finney-Smith emerged as one of the league’s more sought-after two-way wings with Dallas due to his 3-and-D ability, though most of his previous defensive acumen came around the perimeter instead of the paint.

Dorian Finney-Smith puts up a shot during the first half against the Hawks.
Dorian Finney-Smith puts up a shot during the first half against the Hawks.
Robert Sabo for NY Post

It’s what made him an important part of the Nets’ haul for Irving.

Finney-Smith arrived along with Spencer Dinwiddie, a first-round pick and two second-round picks as part of the deal, as the Nets sent Markieff Morris in addition to Irving to the Mavericks.

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Though Mikal Bridges continued his red-hot stretch with a game-high 42 points in the win over the Hawks, he also proved pivotal in getting his new teammate back to form.

“He’s showing his whole game,” Finney-Smith said of Bridges. “He’s also doing a good job of telling me to get my confidence back because I had played [against] him a bunch of times so they know what I can do. It feels good when he’s scoring 40 but he’s worrying about me because I’m not shooting it how I want to. So I’m happy for him.”