Reggie Jackson propels Thunder to overtime win, ties series 2-2

19 Comments

Reggie Jackson was forced to grow up this season — when Russell Westbrook was out recovering from another knee surgery he started and shared the team’s playmaking responsibilities with Kevin Durant.

Saturday night Jackson saved the Thunder’s season.

Jackson had 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting and had five straight points late in the fourth quarter to tie the game and give the Thunder a chance. For the third straight game these teams went to overtime, but behind Jackson the Thunder won 92-89.

The series is now tied 2-2 headed back to Oklahoma City. Lose this game and it was hard to see how the Thunder would have won the series.

That the Thunder won a game — or if you’re a Grizzlies’ fan, that your team failed to win a game — on a night Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were way off their games was huge. Durant finished with 15 points on 5-of-21 shooting. His jumper just was not falling — he was 1-of-8 from the midrange and 1-of-7 from three. By the end of the game Durant looked exhausted, not moving on offensive trips and missing shots when he got a good look. Westbrook was 6-of-24 shooting for 15 points and, well, look at his shot chart.

source:

Despite the struggles of their stars, the Thunder led most of the first half and stretched that lead to 62-50 at one point, thanks to good defense (particularly Serge Ibaka on Zach Randolph). It was 69-60 at one point early in the fourth. The athletic, quick-to-recover Thunder defense was back (on the night the Grizzlies shot just 36.7 percent).

Then The Grindhouse happened.

The Grizzlies never quit and pretty soon they were making plays. Marc Gasol was hitting shots all nigh (23 points, but on 21 shots) but suddenly with Zach Randolph on the bench (bad matchup) Tony Allen was getting to the rim and making plays, Mike Conley was hitting step backs and their run was on.

It was a back-and-forth fourth quarter, but the grind house was on and pretty soon Memphis had an 80-75 lead and seemed in control.

Then Jackson it a three. Next he stole the ball from Beno Udrih and attacked for a lay-up. He saved the game or them and maybe the season.

And we were tied 80-80.

The Grizzlies had their chances. They were just 13-of-23 on the night from the free throw line. They also had he last shot of regulation, but Gasol misses a 17 footer, Z-Bo misses tip, Tony Allen got the rebound and went up, but Serge Ibaka block it.

And it was overtime. Again.Third time in four games.

There the Reggie Jackson show continued — he had 8 points in the extra period. Memphis had chances but just couldn’t close the game, and when Conley missed a game-tying shot at the buzzer it was Jackson’s hand in his face.

The Thunder played with energy — that included Durant for much of the night — but nothing comes easy against Memphis. For the previous two games it had been Durant and Westbrook against the world with no real help from teammates (all the while Memphis would have five players in double figures). The stars needed help.

Reggie Jackson gave it to them and gave the Oklahoma City season new life.

James Harden is playing with a bruised right knee

Getty
Leave a comment

James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets are on a 13-game winning streak. They have a 1.5 game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. But it’s not all rosy in Space City.

Harden suffered a bruised right knee against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, and almost had to sit out the Rockets’ win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after the win over the Bucks, Harden said that he was in some pain but a doctor told him he would be able to play and that he would not make the condition worse.

Via ESPN:

“I wasn’t feeling well at all, but the doc came in and just told me that there’s going to be pain for a bit, but you can play through it,” Harden said. “It can’t get worse, but it’s going to be pretty painful until obviously you give it some time. Once he said that, I was like, ‘Let’s go.'”

“I wasn’t moving like I usually move, but we won,” said Harden.

If Harden wasn’t feeling well, it sure didn’t show. He had 31 points, although on 8-of-21 shooting against Milwaukee. Chris Paul chipped in with 25 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

It doesn’t sound like Harden will be missing a game any time soon, which is par for the course for him. He’s played in a minimum of 89 percent of his team’s regular season games since entering the league in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Rockets are blasting their way into 2018. They play the Warriors next on January 4.

Nuggets say Paul Millsap won’t return until after All-Star break

Getty
Leave a comment

The Western Conference has been a blast this season, with the Houston Rockets playing strong after the arrival of Chris Paul. The team has 13 straight wins, and a 1.5 game lead over the Golden State Warriors.

That’s just part of the results of the West getting a boatload of stars sent its way over the summer. One team is lacking their new addition, however, and his absence has been a quiet disappointment. The Denver Nuggets still sit in sixth place out West, but new forward Paul Millsap has been sidelined with a wrist injury.

The original timeline for Millsap said he would be out for three months, which would put him back around the beginning of March. That plan was confirmed by Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, who said that he expects Millsap will be out until at least the All-Star break, which starts on February 16.

Malone also seemed to indicate it’s possible Millsap is out longer than that.

Via Twitter:

At least Millsap is on schedule? It’s hard to tell inflection from text, but let’s just hope Malone’s “at the earliest” isn’t an indicator of slow recovery on Millsap’s part. The Nuggets certainly don’t need to rush Millsap back. They have a 16-13 record and instill more confidence than most the teams floundering below them in the standings.

LeBron James on talk with Lonzo Ball: “Some things could be held private”

2 Comments

LeBron James was caught on a hot mic this week speaking with Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. The conversation came after the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers in Ohio, 121-112.

In their talk, LeBron told Ball that he needed to stay in his zone and be aggressive. Pretty generic stuff, to be honest.

Meanwhile, LeBron was asked about whether he thought having microphones record those types of conversations between players was good for the league. He was less than enthused.

Via Cleveland.com (response is at 0:50 in the video above):

Some things could be held private. Like my conversation with Lonzo. Everything doesn’t need to be said. Should be some type of privacy. I’m OK with it.

It does raise an interesting question in terms of player privacy and separation between media, fans, and players. On one hand, you could see how what they say on the floor, in a public arena meant for spectators, could be deemed public and therefore fair game.

But it’s also common for media not to publish — or for TV not to broadcast — the things players say during the game. We don’t hear trash talking, even if we see it, and if you’ve ever sat near the floor at an NBA game you hear a lot more colorful language than you do watching the game on TV.

However you come down player privacy on the court, it doesn’t seem like LeBron needed to speak with Ball in front of media like that. He could have spoken to him in the tunnels below the Q, or got his phone number and texted him. He could have sent him a DM on Twitter and it would have been more private.

It feels like there was a performative aspect to this, like LeBron wanted to create a mystery around his conversation with Lonzo but it got turned on its head. It’s just too bad what was said between them wasn’t actually that interesting.

LeBron James on possibly winning fifth MVP this season: ‘It would mean a lot’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LeBron James is destroying the NBA’s traditional aging curve. Over the years and looking at thousands of players, we know that at certain ages and years in the league, guys start to decline. Look at the guys still in the league from the 2003 NBA draft: players still in the league, such as Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, are seeing their games deteriorate in their 15th NBA season. As expected.

Not LeBron.

About to turn 33 and having played more regular season games than Michael Jordan did, LeBron is averaging 28.1 points, 9.3 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game, with a true shooting percentage of 65.9 that would be a career high, and a PER of 31.5 that is right at his career high for a season (31.7). LeBron has not lost a step.

LeBron is in the middle of the too-early MVP conversation, where he and Houston’s James Harden have separated from the field a third of the way into the season. At shootaround Saturday LeBron said winning the NBA MVP for a fifth time would matter to him, but what he really likes doing is opening the door to future NBA players to blow up the aging curve. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“Team success is always the number one, but along the way if you’re able to accomplish some individual awards, individual achievements, it would mean a lot,” James said after Saturday’s practice. “I feel good. This is my 15th year, but this is one of the best years I’ve had as far as how I feel and I want to continue that. I want to kind of try to break the mold for the next generation. So just take the narrative out of ‘OK, you’re past your prime when you get [to] 31, or you’re past your prime in your 12th year in the league, or whatever the case may be.’ Hopefully I can break the mold so when the next guy comes, he can still get 200 or 300 million and be 33 years old. I’m serious. You guys are laughing, I’m serious. This is the mold I’m trying to break.”

He’s broken it.

Part of it is that today’s players know more about nutrition and training than past generations. They tend to take better care of their bodies, there are improved medical treatments, and much better diets — and nobody takes all that more seriously than LeBron.

Also, he is a physical freak of nature. Always has been.

It’s too early to have a serious MVP conversation, we have two-thirds of the season remaining, but as of now LeBron and Harden are the front runners (with guys such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and others on the next tier). If LeBron can keep up this level of play, and continues to carry the Cavaliers to a top two record in the East, he will be one of the top vote-getters. No question.

And that would break a mold, too, and put him in a conversation with Michael Jordan again (Jordan won five MVPs, the oldest at age 35).