Suns need more from Mikal Bridges with injured Devin Booker

It feels like the second act of every buddy cop movie. You know, the part where something comes between the duo, be it ego or injury, and they have to find their worth without each other’s help.

Riggs and Murtaugh. Starsky and Hutch. Booker and Bridges.

We have seen glimpses this year of what phoenix suns Forward Mikael Bridges can be offensive. He scored 31 points against the The Minnesota Timberwolves. He has dropped 27 points on three separate occasions. He is third on the team in scoring with 15.7 points and is shooting 39.2% from deep.

While he’s not someone you’d necessarily trust for an offensive result, he does have a few tricks in his bag that allow him to be effective on that side of the ball. He’s your defensive guy. He has your back. He’s like Sergeant Al Powell in die hardkeeping an eye on John McClane and smoking Karl, who somehow survives an explosion on the roof of the Nakatomi towers.

Bridges is a key piece in a team that has taken a trip to the nba finals and won 64 games. You have to have connective tissue to do that, and Mikal is that piece.

He is now in his fifth year as a professional. And while injuries have escalated for the Suns, some of the burden falls on his narrow shoulders. When it matters most, Bridges has suffered.

Devin Booker aggravated his groin injury early in the game against the denver nuggets In Christmas. Knowing you’re on the road, playing the first game of a six game tour and losing your best player is not a good place to start.

Mikal Bridges intervened in Booker’s absence. Initially. The team trailed by nine points when Devin went to the locker room, but behind Mikal Bridges’ 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first quarter, Phoenix closed Denver’s lead to four points.

So, as Carter in Rush hour, He had left. Like Jackie Chan’s character Lee, we all stay in our car, emotionally reminiscing as Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” plays.

In a game that went to overtime, Mikal Bridges finished with 13 total points. Yes, the same Bridges who scored 10 points in the first quarter scored three points the rest of the game. He shot 1 of 9 for the last three quarters plus overtime.

Bridges’ lack of offensive presence was exacerbated when, with a chance to win the game, Mikal set up a slow screen, resulting in an offensive foul.

Phoenix would go on to lose the game in overtime, somehow the Suns fans found a way to pin the blame on Deandre Ayton.

It’s time we look at Mikal. His performances so far this season in the clutch are abysmal.

Keep in mind that this rig is also not good at clutching. Whereas last season they were 33-9 (best in the NBA), this year they are 5-9 (23rd in the NBA). They lack the identity they had a season ago, where everyone had a chance to play their role and execute when the game was in the last five minutes and five points behind the opposition.

Injuries are a major contributor to this lack of cohesion. Players are stepping out of their normal roles. In the long run, this experience that they are gaining can ultimately benefit the team. In the short term though, it’s painful to watch.

Just look at Mikal Bridges’ numbers during clutch time.

Against the Nuggets he was 0-for-2 from the field in the clutch, adding 2 turnovers and 2 personal fouls.

Book as primary, Ayton as secondary, and Bridges as tertiary. This is the way. Injuries don’t allow it, and when Bridges needs to take on that secondary role, he’s highly ineffective.

The 26-year-old Bridges, who is currently the team’s third leading scorer, doesn’t play as a secondary option when Booker is out. In games where Booker is out, Bridges averages 16 points. But he is doing it with a 33.3% shot and a 28.6% bottom line. The Suns are 1-4 in those games.

This is a problem.

There is a lot of time left in the season, and we know there are many more opportunities for Phoenix in these exact situations. Devin Booker is injured and we don’t know how long it will be until he returns. A groin strain, a soft tissue problem, persists.

Mikal needs Booker to be the best version of himself, but it’s time for him to realize that he may have to go it alone for a while. Bridges needs to see this opportunity and go to the lab. He goes to the shooting range, if you want.

It cannot simply be a defensive force. It must also be an offensive threat.

Together he and Booker can win the day. But it is only when the trust in the sidekick is fully realized. Mikal, it’s time to develop your full potential.

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