For the better part of the first two months, Reggie Jackson has thrived in his bench role, shredding defenses and pushing for more minutes.
And with Russell Westbrook's sudden absence, the added opportunity is here.
But Jackson, who has started all 12 games (including the playoffs) that Westbrook had previously missed, struggled in his return to the starting lineup on Friday night at Charlotte.
In 30 minutes, Jackson went 4-of-19 shooting for 10 points. And it just extended Jackson's recent shooting slump, which has seen him go a combined 11-of-46 from the field the past three games.
But because of his recent track record, the Thunder don't seem worried.
“He didn't have a good offensive game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “But that's part of the NBA … Reggie will shoot better.”
SERGE IBAKA CARRIES THUNDER OFFENSE EARLY
Throughout much of the first half, with his teammates struggling to make shots, Serge Ibaka served as the Thunder's best offensive option.
OKC featured him on a number of early sets, leading to eight points (on 4-of-4 shooting) in the first quarter, including a nifty drive and finish he wouldn't have even attempted a couple seasons ago.
“I think Serge has really come along the last couple years with his offensive game,” Brooks said. “He can score in many areas of the floor.”
Overall, Ibaka finished with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, not getting many opportunities late.
But his overall efficiency comes as a good sign. In the first 11 games without Westbrook, Ibaka shot
Midway through the first quarter, Brooks subbed Perry Jones in for Kevin Durant, a rare time for the superstar to sit unless he's facing foul trouble (which he wasn't).
But with Westbrook's absence, it seems, Brooks is toying with different lineups, including a different rotation pattern for Durant.
Durant came back late in the first quarter and played the rest of the half. He typically sits throughout the early part of the second quarter.
“Just trying to figure out how we can best utilize our guys in certain lineups,” Brooks said.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
In the second quarter, Jeremy Lamb missed the first free throw of his career. He was 29-of-29 before the miss.
The Thunder returns to Oklahoma City for an intriguing three-game homestand that begins with the Rockets on Sunday, continues with the Blazers on Tuesday and ends with the Nets on Thursday. Tip time for Sunday's game is 6 p.m.