Reggie Jackson is one of the 30 best point guards in the league, which means that he could be a starter on the wrong. He’s the back-up for the Oklahoma City Thunder though. In a league dominated by guard play, having a player like Reggie Jackson coming off the bench is a luxury that few teams have. So when Reggie is on the floor, he needs to be dominating.
In game one, he was. The result; a 14 point Thunder victory. In game two, he wasn’t. The result; a 6 point Thunder loss in overtime.
Reggie only had nine points in the first game and he only made one shot from the field. But he contributed with eight rebounds, four assists and got to the line for eight free throws, more than any other player on the Thunder. He attacked the Memphis Grizzlies defense, got opposing players in foul trouble, and caused havoc.
Game two was a nightmare for Reggie. His shot didn’t fall once and he only got to the free throw line twice. He finished with two points, three rebounds, and two assists. He was outplayed by Memphis backup Beno Udrih, who had 14 points in 14 minutes.
Reggie averaged 13 points during the regular season. That number is inflated a bit because he was the starter while Westbrook is out, but it just goes to show how good he can be against starters. So why can’t he be that good against bench players? Obviously things don’t work like that. As a starter, teams geared up to stop Durant and Ibaka, giving Jackson more room to operate. Off the bench, Jackson is the primary focus. But that’s no excuse to struggle against Beno Udrih and the Grizzlies weak group of reserves.
Jackson’s defense has been his weak point all year, so it’s not exactly surprising when he gives up points to opposing guards. That doesn’t mean getting outscored 14-2 by Beno Udrih is excusable, but if he’s going to give up 14 points to his rival backup, he must score 16.
Jackson’s shot hasn’t been falling in this series, but anyone who has watched OKC all season knows that Jackson is a special kind of athlete. In fact, if Westbrook wasn’t a freak athlete, we’d all be marveling at Jackson’s athletic ability on the floor. He has the speed, quickness, handle, and strength to break down defenders, get to the rim, take contact, and finish. He proved that in game one. Something changed in game two. Whatever it was, Jackson needs to figure it out and adjust for game three.
Reggie is good enough to take over games when Westbrook and Durant sit. There’s a reason why the Thunder didn’t fall off when Russell Westbrook missed the middle part of the season. Yes, Kevin Durant raised his game to another level. And yes, Serge Ibaka stepped up. But Jackson stepped up as well. So much so that some people thought it would be wise for OKC to trade Westbrook, add some extra pieces, and make Jackson the full-time starter. Those people would’ve been wrong, but it just goes to show how much of an impression Jackson made while Westbrook sat in the press box.
The more Jackson struggles, the more Derek Fisher will play. Although Fisher is only going to give you the occasional three on the offensive end a plenty of fouls on the defensive end, head coach Scott Brooks would rather live in poverty with no medical care than die in a mansion right next to a hospital.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will get theirs, Serge Ibaka will be a strong contributor, and the rest of the team will make a shot or two. Reggie Jackson is the momentum changer and the Thunder isn’t winning this series if Jackson doesn’t play better.
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder