Two unlikely players suddenly are lighting up the scoreboard for the Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets entering their showdown on Sunday afternoon in New York.
Mikal Bridges of the Nets (42-35) and Talen Horton-Tucker of the Jazz (36-41) have unexpectedly become scoring machines for their respective teams.
Bridges has filled a void left by the Kevin Durant trade and scored 42 points in a 124-107 win against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
Bridges has now hit the 40-point mark three times for Brooklyn, including twice in the past three games.
"It's just, I'm really trying to win, so every shot I take I'm being aggressive and trying to make every shot I shoot," Bridges said.
Interestingly, Bridges finished March with the second-most points (461) in Nets history for a calendar month. Durant set the scoring standard with 471 points last November.
Bridges is averaging 27.5 points in 22 games with Brooklyn after scoring 17.2 per game in Phoenix for the first 56 games of the season prior to the trade.
His play has helped Brooklyn win three of four games and approach clinching a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, Horton-Tucker is taking advantage of more offensive touches thanks to trades and injuries.
Utah has been without its four leading scorers in recent games, but Horton-Tucker has helped the Jazz compensate with his offensive outbursts.
"Obviously Talen was special tonight," Jazz coach Will Hardy said after the team had a four-game losing streak snapped Wednesday in San Antonio.
"But there were a lot of guys contributing on both ends of the floor that not only allowed him (Horton-Tucker) to have 41 points, but allowed our team to come out with the win tonight."
Horton-Tucker hit 15 of 25 shots, including six 3-pointers, en route to 41 points in Utah's 128-117 road win against the Spurs. He followed that up with a team-high 28 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists in Friday's 122-114 loss at Boston.
"I was just trying to keep the defense guessing, staying consistent at all three levels, and be aggressive," Horton-Tucker said after his big night against the Spurs. "I feel like if I come out and do all those three things, I'll be successful on the court."
Though top players haven't been playing much lately, Hardy said the Jazz aren't purposely holding out key cogs like Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton.
"I watched Jordan and Collin do a rehab 3-on-3 this morning in hopes of getting back to playing," Hardy said Friday. "So, I have not shut them down for the season. They're still preparing as if they're coming back."
With five games remaining in the regular season, the Jazz are still in contention for a spot in the play-in. Utah entered Saturday 1 1/2 games behind the 10th-place Oklahoma City Thunder and one game behind the Dallas Mavericks.
--Field Level Media