PHOENIX - Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and the Brooklyn Nets put on a masterclass of team basketball Wednesday night, making the extra pass, playing good defense and hitting a few clutch shots.
In a way, it was a reminder of what the Phoenix Suns used to have.
Bridges scored 21 points and Johnson added 15 in an emotional return to the desert, leading the Nets to a 116-112 victory and spoiling the debut of the Suns’ All-Star trio. The two players were traded from the Suns to the Nets last season in a package that sent 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant back to Phoenix.
"It feels great," Johnson said about his return. "This building welcomed me with open arms a long time ago and welcomed me with open arms tonight. It’s pretty cool when you have the opportunity to come back to a place where the people still support you and care about you."
The Nets have won seven of their past nine. Cam Thomas led Brooklyn with 24 points.
The Suns trailed by eight points at the break but rallied for an 88-86 lead heading into the fourth. The game stayed tight throughout the final quarter, but the Nets took the lead with about 10 minutes remaining and never gave it up.
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 13: Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns high fives Bradley Beal #3 and Devin Booker #1 during the second half of the NBA game against the Brooklyn Nets at Footprint Center on December 13, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Net (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Spencer Dinwiddie hit a 3 to put the Nets up 112-106 with 1:54 left. He followed with a layup on the team’s next offensive possession and finished with 16 points.
"We did a great job of relying on each other at different parts of the game," Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said.
The Suns cut it to 114-112 with 28 seconds left, but Thomas hit two free throws with 3 seconds left to seal it. Thomas scored 10 points in the fourth.
It was the first time this season — in the 24th game — that Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal played for the Suns on the same night. The trio’s debut was delayed because of various injuries, particularly Beal’s sore back, which has limited him to five games this season.
Booker had 34 points and 12 assists, Durant added 27 points and Beal had 14. Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points and a season-high 22 rebounds.
"Not good enough to win the game, but we’re going to stay positive," Suns coach Frank Vogel said. "It’s the first game with those three out there together. A lot of figuring it out — when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive."
Said Booker: "We’re not going to stress too much. We obviously have some things to work on."
The Nets led by 15 during the first half before settling for a 64-56 halftime advantage. Johnson led the Nets with 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting before the break, including three 3-pointers. Booker led the Suns with 17.
Bridges and Johnson were important — and popular — members of the 2021 Suns team that advanced to the Finals before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.
Both players received a loud, lengthy ovation during a tribute video before the game.
"It’s one of those moments I’ll remember for a really long time," Johnson said.
The Suns haven’t matched the same team success since Bridges and Johnson were traded, falling in the second round of the playoffs last season to eventual champion Denver.
Nets: At Denver on Thursday night.
Suns: Host New York on Friday night.