Monday night, the buzzer sounded and Jalen Brunson walked right by Mikal Bridges, head down. Bridges turned and found another hand to slap, Brunson off to the locker room.

Before this NBA Western Conference semifinal series, Brunson, starting guard for the Dallas Mavericks, had pointed out how he loved the starting small forward for the Phoenix Suns, “truly,” that he and Bridges have an unbreakable bond, just one that is put aside on the court — not just because this is the playoffs, that if you had seen Villanova practicing back in their day, “you guys would’ve thought we all hated each other.”

A big NBA playoff series and these two Villanova greats are central to the plot line. Brunson was the breakout star of the last round for the Dallas Mavericks. Bridges is the outside perimeter stopper for the Suns, second this season in NBA defensive player of the year voting.

This game? The plot lines veered off. Mentions of Brunson were more about his shot misses and his early foul trouble, how Dallas needed offensive help for Luka Doncic and Monday night and … not a Brunson night. He didn’t embarrass himself. Has he ever embarrassed himself? But 13 points in 6-for-16 shooting factored into Phoenix holding serve at home, 121-114.

» READ MORE: At Villanova, Jay Wright did things the right way

Let’s pause for a moment. The idea of beating the winningest 2021-22 NBA team on its home court in the playoffs depends on a guy who wasn’t even drafted in the first round back in 2018?

Well, yeah. Brunson long ago proved that the Sixers and most other NBA teams missed the boat on passing on the 2018 NCAA player of the year. What Brunson did against Utah was entirely different. A Twitter feed titled @NBAcrazystats offered a legit crazy one, that since the NBA started tracking individual turnovers in 1977-78, Brunson against Utah was only the third player to record 40 points, no turnovers, no fouls. When you see the other players were LaMarcus Aldridge and Dominique Wilkins, you realize the stat is even more crazy, that Brunson is the only guard to do it.

It wasn’t just that one game, Game 2 against Utah, when, Doncic out injured, Brunson scored 41, with 5 assists to go with those no turnovers. Brunson averaged 27.8 points in the six-game series, never scored fewer than 23, even after Doncic made it back for the last three games.

This all didn’t come out of nowhere. Brunson averaged 16.8 points this season. His advanced stats are elite. That’s the proper word for what he brings to a basketball team, just like his time on the Main Line. It all translates. Brunson is a terrific partner to Doncic, able to do his thing with the ball or without it, including posting up inside. His stats elite there, too. (After the season, Brunson will be rewarded by some NBA team, Dallas or elsewhere, with a contract befitting his new status.)

Maybe that was all underscored Monday when Brunson was not elite, picking up a couple of early fouls, then hitting the bench again early in the second quarter when he picked up a third with only two points at the time. An early Phoenix lead turned out to be the difference, even as Doncic, as tough a perimeter defensive assignment as there is in the league, scored 45.

For his part, Bridges had the Doncic assignment a fair amount, so he might not include this game in his defensive highlight package. Except he still made Doncic work for his points. Even when Bridges switched off Doncic, you could see him keeping an eye on the Mavericks star, ready to help. At this point in his career, Bridges offers elite help. (That word again.)

Actually, there was a Bridges defensive highlight, the commentators asking where he’d come from as they replayed a spectacular block of a Mavericks corner three.

» READ MORE: Bridges is cementing himself as an NBA ironman and defensive ace

Bridges is an elite three and D guy, but he’s more than that. You saw him drive from the wing, flip a pass to a driving big teammate for a dunk. His Villanova game, it all translates. The TV guys were talking about how Phoenix coach Monty Williams was raving about how Bridges “has the ability to just change a game defensively.” This game, Devin Booker and Chris Paul were the stars, per usual. (Phoenix has the best record for all sorts of reasons, with no weak links.)

The last time Bridges and Brunson had been on a basketball court together for a postseason game, it was in San Antonio, each doing his part to wrap up a second NCAA championship. Bridges had been the second-leading Villanova scorer to Donte DiVincenzo, with 19 points. Brunson had run the show without ego, scoring 9 points, adding a couple of assists and a couple of steals.

Can you remember how Brunson came out at the end and was full-out bawling before he reached his head coach? Brunson was always the emotional center of that team but until that moment, the emotion was shown as an otherworldly calm, with a steely exterior. Xavier’s coach had once said that if you peel Brunson’s face off, he’d probably have wires coming out of it.

It all translates to the pros, maybe a fitting epilogue to the whole Jay Wright-Villanova era. Monday, when Bridges and Brunson briefly guarded each other, there was a foul call, play stopped, and their arms stayed locked for an extra beat or two. That was as close as anyone got to seeing these two guys have a history, a bond that has to be put aside.