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Nets’ Mikal Bridges finds his groove in disappointing loss to Trail Blazers

NEW YORK — The Nets managed to blow another game they had no business losing Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center. But in their 134-127 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Mikal Bridges was the best player on the court, and he desperately needed a game like this.

The 6-foot-6 wing finished with a game-high 42 points with four rebounds and three assists in the loss, his most productive outing since Dec. 23. and first 40-point game since Dec. 2. And when Bridges is at his best offensively, Brooklyn typically is, too.

The Nets shot 50.5% from the field and went 14-of-37 from 3-point range against Portland on Sunday. However, they turned the ball over 16 times, which led to 13 points for Portland, and surrendered 15 second-chance points. Those mishaps kept the game closer than it had to be.

Despite the collective collapse, Bridges was at his best when they needed him to be. Ten of his points came in the fourth quarter to help the team overcome a seven-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation, including a clutch elbow bucket with 1.2 seconds left to force overtime.

But it obviously was not enough. The Nets led by eight points entering the fourth quarter. Portland outscored them 30-22 in the fourth quarter and 19-12 in overtime. The Trail Blazers made 20 treys and Anfernee Simons dropped 38 points.

Thirteen of Bridges’ points came in the first quarter. He added seven more in the extra session.

After losing five straight games from Dec. 27 to Jan 3., Brooklyn (16-21) is 1-2 in January entering next week’s trip to Paris. The team took its flight across the pond shortly after Sunday’s loss. And hopefully Bridges’ newfound rhythm will travel with him.

Bridges was averaging 15.3 points per game while shooting 38.8% from the field and 25.6% over his last six games entering the day. He went 15-of-26 from the field against Portland and made four treys, which tied his season high.

The 27-year-old averaged 23 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in his first 23 appearances this season. He was seventh in All-Star votes among Eastern Conference frontcourt players when the NBA’s initial voting returns were revealed last Thursday.