With defense a given, Bridges starting to flash offense for USA
MANILA (Philippines) - Mikal Bridges built his reputation on defense and he has provided strong support at that end of the floor at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. But the United States forward has started to really shine offensively.
Bridges drained 4 three-pointer in scoring 24 points in USA’s dominant 100-63 victory over Italy to reach the Semi-Finals. That makes it three straight games in which he scored at least 10 points.
"I just stay aggressive. That's what it is. And honestly, even coming in tonight, I was really, really locked in on rebounding. That's kind of been my struggle throughout this whole process and what I struggle with just in general. Just that force of being aggressive," said Bridges, who collected 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 block to earn the TCL Player of the Game.
The 27-year-old was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2022. And last season Bridges was traded from Phoenix to Brooklyn, where his scoring average jumped from 17.2 points to 26.1 points per game over the final 27 games. And he poured in 23.5 points a game in the playoffs.
Bridges was quick to deflect all the credit for his emergence.
"That's my teammates. They're just finding me. That's the biggest thing. I just all credit to them," said Bridges, who is averaging 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.5 steals.
His USA teammates have been impressed with what the Philadelphia native has shown in his first FIBA tournament.
"He's unreal. I've been seeing it since the day I met him almost 10 years ago," said USA playmaker Jalen Brunson, who played with Bridges for two seasons of collegiate basketball with Villanova University. "So the way he's evolved, the way he's worked on his game every single day, it's been a blessing to watch. It's a blessing to be his friend."
Paolo Banchero faced Bridges in the NBA during his rookie season, and the big man said what he is doing in Manila is just what he does.
"He does it in the NBA. He does it wherever he plays. He's just a guy who you know what he's going to do on defense and you know what he's going to do on offense. If he gets good looks, he's going to get hot and he's going to make plays," Banchero said.
Bridges has played in the NBA since 2018 and he is getting his first opportunity to play for United States - something he really values.
"It's great man. Just the fans and this whole thing is just amazing. You know just blessed to be in this position It's great just the job is not finished yet. I think I'll enjoy it more when we go home on September 11 with a gold medal around my neck." he said.
And it will be Bridges defense and offense which will help USA grab their sixth world title.