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.
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.