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.

Pacers’ Myles Turner shuts down Bradley Beal at the rim (VIDEO)

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Myles Turner owned the paint in the first half — the Pacers’ center had five blocked shots in the first 24 minutes.

The big shut down was on Bradley Beal, this is how a big man recovers and goes after it.

Then later there was this play leading to a bucket on the other end.

Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).

Washington learned that the hard way.

 

Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers

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The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.

J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.

Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.

Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.

Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.

Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery

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Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.

But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”

It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.

The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.

The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.

Report: Bulls execs John Paxson and Gar Forman backing Jim Boylen

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Bulls players have made clear their thoughts on new coach Jim Boylen’s abnormally frequent and lengthy practices, his harsh public critiques, his five-man substitutions:

They don’t like it.

Not every player feels the exact same way, but enough were fed up to refuse to practice yesterday – the day after a back-to-back, a time teams almost never practice. Everyone compromised on a team meeting, though players reportedly also complained to their union.

But Boylen says he isn’t backing down – and it sounds as if his superiors support him.

Boylen, via Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago:

“My job…is to try to push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” he said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what my job is. That’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for.

“I explained that to them – ‘Hey guys, everybody wants it comfortable, everybody wants it safe. Well, I don’t think you become great in that.’ So it’s going to be a little raw for a while, it’s going to be a little rough for a while. And maybe there’s a point where it gets not as rough but all of a sudden it’s got to be rough again.”

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The fact Boylen cited ownership is telling. Phil Jackson praised Boylen to Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf after Boylen met with the Hall of Fame coach last summer. And according to team and league sources, executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman raved to ownership about Boylen’s message during Sunday’s meeting, which Paxson and Forman attended.

I wonder whether Paxson and Forman actually believe in Boylen or just feel as if they have no choice but to support him. Their last coaching hire, Fred Hoiberg, flopped to the point questions emerged about Forman’s job security. Paxson already declared a plan to keep Boylen for next season. Maybe Paxson and Forman can’t dump Boylen without bringing too much scrutiny upon themselves.

But the status quo isn’t sustainable. Boylen can’t keep belittling his players and running them into the ground without inciting a rebellion. He must ease up at least a little.

A theory that gives the Bulls the benefit of the doubt (that they don’t necessarily deserve): They already know this is a lost season, and playing for a higher draft pick is their best strategy. Boylen’s harsh practices will both help them lose and instill good long-term habits. Plus, his presence ensures players will welcome Chicago’s next coach. Even someone more demanding than Hoiberg would now suddenly be a reprieve.