Maybe Reggie Jackson took a step forward, or it might have been Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook stepping back. Whatever it was, it worked, and saved the series for the Oklahoma City Thunder, coming away with the 92-89 overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies to tie things at 2-2 and head back home feeling confidence again.
No four point plays or smart offense from the Thunder. It was once again a player taking things and business into his own hands. The surprise and twist? Not Durant, not Westbrook. The Grizzlies have found a way to slow the two stars down, but at some point, there’s a hole in the wall ready to be punched, and Jackson’s finish in both the fourth quarter and overtime proved he found a way to do it.
Jackson scored 32 points to lead the Thunder. He scored the final five points of the game to bring the Thunder from behind in regulation and added four more in overtime, before Mike Conley missed a tough 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to try and tie the game. Much has been said of the ball hogging and of role players not stepping up, but all that was forgotten as Jackson came out as the hero for the day.
But there’s no denying how bad the Thunder look right now. The offense, the head coach – no one seems to be taking even the slightest bit of attention to the criticism about how their offense is operating. The same one on one, bullheaded players. Durant with a very poor 5-of-21 from the field to score 15 points, Russell Westbrook to hit 6-of-21 from the field, scoring 15 points. The key to victories didn’t come from them.
So where from? Maybe Serge Ibaka with his 5 blocks and Kendrick Perkins with something numbers don’t show. A big part of the Grizzlies success has been their ability to win the battles in the pain through Randolph and Gasol. Gasol had himself a good game with 23 points and 11 rebounds, but Randolph struggled getting good positioning in the post, finishing with 5-of-14 from the field and making a mess of his trips to the line on 1-of-5.
Kevin Durant deserves a special chapter here, along with Westbrook. He was 4-for-19 (21%) on shots at least 10 feet from the basket and is shooting 16% from there in the last two games. He was 1-for-9 with Tony Allen as his primary defender, including 0-for-8 in regulation. For the series, Durant is 12-for-41 (29%) when guarded by Allen. He hardly gave them anything on half court offense (four points) and terrible (1-of-10) on catch and shoot. Westbrook continues to start games well but look horrendous in the second half.
But Reggie Jackson came through – he was almost unstoppable when driving to the basket and did a great job on Mike Conley throughout the series. But this wasn’t the Thunder suddenly looking for Jackson s the two stars relinquished control. Jackson simply took the ball and went ahead with it. This wasn’t some Renaissance in the way the Thunder do offense. It was one player pulling off heroics, just the way they like it. It was simply a different name to the ones we’ve gotten used to.