Reggie Jackson had played just 4 minutes, 17 seconds in the first half.
All he could do in that time is grab one rebound and dish one assist.
By the time Jackson checked in for the third quarter last Tuesday against Denver, the Thunder trailed by 13. The Nuggets were threatening to blow out Oklahoma City on its own court.
Until Jackson supplied a spark.
In the final 2 minutes, 15 seconds of the third quarter, he squirted free for a fast break and was fouled while attempting a layup, earning two free throws. He blocked a shot by Andre Miller. He slashed to the hoop and threw down a dunk over JaVale McGee.
The Thunder closed the quarter on an 8-2 run and had new life entering the final period trailing by only seven.
Jackson went on to play the entire fourth period. Though the Thunder couldn't pull out the win, Jackson scored four points with four rebounds and one blocked shot in the frame, effectively providing a glimpse of the all-around impact he's capable of producing.
One night later, in an overtime loss at Memphis, Jackson did it again … and again Sunday night against Portland, proving his increasingly effective performances are not flukes.
Since the trade that sent Eric Maynor to Portland last month, Jackson has emerged as a versatile weapon off the bench. He's scored when baskets have been needed, rebounded at a high rate and run the offense with rapidly improving control and confidence.
“He's playing great. He's a lot more comfortable,” said Nick Collison. “He has a better feel of what he should be doing out there. And the thing with him that I really like is he's making the easy play. I've talked to him about that a lot. It's just his understanding of what he needs to be accomplishing out there is a lot better than it was earlier.”
The question now is why are Jackson's minutes still so sporadic?
Jackson is averaging just 12.9 minutes this season. By comparison, Derek Fisher has averaged 13.8 minutes since joining the team. In three of the past five first halves, Jackson has inexplicably played less than six minutes.
But things appear to be slowly changing for the better. Jackson has averaged 15 minutes since taking over the backup point guard job from Maynor in mid-December. That average is up to 15.9 minutes in the 15 games since Fisher arrived.
Still, it seems Jackson is being underused.
“I think he's improving, there's no question,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Jackson. “He still has a lot of things that he will continue to get better at. But I think he's done a good job of working with our coaches and improving day to day. But he's in a good position. He's on a good team. And he's going to get better but he's not going to get a lot of time right now. But I think what he's done with his time he's made the most of it and he's going to continue to improve. Just playing behind Russell (Westbrook) there's not a lot of minutes.”
In his limited opportunities over the past 15 games, Jackson has averaged 6.7 points on 46.4 percent shooting. He's added 2.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists over that same span. While he continues working to develop a reliable jump shot, Jackson is making a living in the lane.
According to NBA.com/stats, Jackson is shooting 70.6 percent inside the restricted area. When combined with his connection rate in the paint beyond the restricted area, Jackson is shooting 65.1 percent in the lane.
More impressively, Jackson is excelling at creating his own shot, giving the Thunder a crafty third ballhandler to complement Westbrook and Durant. It's something the Thunder hasn't had since losing James Harden to Houston.
Seventy-five percent of Jackson's shots in the restricted area have been unassisted, while 90.5 percent of his shots in the paint behind the restricted area have been unassisted. Those numbers put Jackson on par with Westbrook as a shot creator, though the sample size is considerably smaller. But they are figures that illustrate how the second-year point guard has progressed at picking his spots, finding the right balance of when to attack and when to pull back and set up teammates.
“He's just being confident,” Westbrook said. “Everybody always has room to grow. But he's done a good job of just being confident and playing his game.”