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

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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.

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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.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.