With the ball in his hands, Reggie Jackson's primary scoring threat will always be on the drive, attacking the rim.
“I'm always trying to get to the basket,” Jackson said. “I think I can cause havoc in the paint just getting there. But if you don't take any outside shots, people are going to start sagging off.”
And that's just what the Utah Jazz did defensively on Sunday night. So as a counter, Jackson flashed his improved jumper, nailing all three of his 3s en route to a team-high 18 points and an easier-than-the-score-indicates 88-82 preseason win at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I feel more confident, I feel more relaxed,” Jackson said of his jumper. “I just feel I'm in a better position to do so. I understand that you have to take some outside shots and no matter what people say around you, you have to be confident in your game.”
In the first two seasons of his career, Jackson made only 37 of his 166 threes (22 percent). In the first four preseason games, Jackson had made only one of 11.
But during recent availabilities, Jackson and his teammates indicated the jumper was noticeably improved. He had put in the work this offseason, and that had spilled over into training camp.
But against the Jazz, we finally got tangible evidence in a game.
His three 3s accounted for 75 percent of the Thunder's points from downtown and also qualified as a career-high for Jackson. Preseason, regular season or playoffs, he'd never hit more than two 3s in a game.
“He's improved in that area a lot, especially on the catch,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “When he's on a swing pass, we all feel confident he can make that shot. I thought he had a great game.”
And a bounceback game, too. This performance, which also included six assists, three rebounds and no turnovers, came on the heels of a disappointing late-game showing on Thursday.
In a 105-102 loss to New Orleans in Tulsa, Jackson missed two shots and committed a turnover on three of the game's most crucial possessions.
“I felt like I let my team down,” Jackson admitted. “I gotta get better, especially late-game, figuring things out.”
But on Sunday, he made sure no late-game heroics were needed.
Jackson controlled the game from the tip, smoothly taking advantage of the Jazz's depleted backcourt. And when he left the game for good after three quarters, the Thunder held a commanding 79-62 lead.
“I thought he played well in (Thursday's) game, but he was disappointed in himself,” Kevin Durant said. “He came out today and you could tell he watched film and learned from his mistakes. I'm happy for him because he's a smart player, a smart person and he gets it. He makes adjustments quick.”
And that includes his improved 3-point shot, which could become a key for the Thunder offense this season, with it likely to be open on a consistent basis.
“It's just something I worked on to make people and defenses respect me,” Jackson said. “But I'm all about getting to the basket, making plays for the defense and making plays for myself.”