The most interesting thing said in the Thunder locker room after the 92-89 overtime victory at Memphis in Game 4 came from Caron Butler.
“When I thought about coming here, I looked at the personnel, and I just said this is a great situation,” Butler said. “A team that’s on the cusp of doing something special and he (Reggie Jackson) was one of the reasons; a young talented guy that’s coming off the bench and assertive in the lineup and not missing a beat. Russell (Westbrook) was down early in the season. He (Jackson) played great and I knew that his moment would come. He was ready for his moment.”
Jackson most certainly was. His performance was a sight to behold: 32 points in 37 minutes, in a 92-89 overtime victory. You can do a lot with Jackson’s numbers:
* Jackson scored more points than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined (30), and made as many baskets (11) as Durant and Westbrook combined, taking 29 fewer shots.
* Jackson used 24 possessions (shots, pairs of foul shots and turnovers) to get his 32 points. Westbrook and Durant used 61 possessions combined to get their 30 points total – Westbrook 32, Durant 29.
* Jackson made 11 of 16 shots. The only other player in the game who shot more than twice and made at least 43 percent of his shots was Serge Ibaka (six of 11).
* The Thunder as a team shot 36.7 percent from the field. Take out Jackson, and the Thunder made just 22 of 74 (29.7 percent).
* Beno Udrih has rightly deserved praise for his play in this series. He’s been the difference in Memphis hanging around. Udrih has 35 points in the four games combined. Jackson had 32 points in Game 4 alone.
* Jackson led the Thunder in scoring twice this season – he scored 27 at Boston and 27 at San Antonio, both in January. Serge Ibaka led the Thunder twice. Butler and Jeremy Lamb each led OKC once. The other 76 games, the Thunder was led by either Durant or Westbrook.
“He was very aggressive and made some shots and got going,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. “My hat’s off to him. He did a great job of being in attack mode, not settling, and really trying to get to the rim.”
Joerger said, “I think both teams’ ‘big three’ kind of cancelled each other out. Both teams are concentrating on the other teams big three and the complementary players made a difference. Reggie Jackson was tremendous as we know that he can be. He got all the way to the rim too many times. I thought he was really good tonight and probably the difference in the game.”
In case you’re wondering, Memphis’ big three is Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. That trio actually got the better of OKC’s big three.
Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka: 42 points on 17 of 56 shooting.
Memphis’ big three: 48 points on 20 of 51 shooting.
When the Thunder stars produce like that, OKC almost always is sunk. So Joerger was right. Jackson saved the Thunder.
Here is more on a memorable Game 4:
You know me. I love the plus/minus numbers. How did your team do while you were on the court. And there were some interesting plus/minus numbers from Game 4.
Jackson? Plus two. What? You thought I was going to say plus 26, like that Derek Fisher number from Houston Game 6 last spring? For all of Jackson’s offense, the Thunder played barely above even with Jackson on the court.
The best plus/minus? Nick Collison, plus six. Collison only played 11:15, but the Thunder played well with him on the court. Collison sank a first-quarter 3-pointer, but his best stretch came late third quarter, when he entered the game and helped OKC extend a 52-45 lead to 62-50.
Kevin Durant: even. Which is not surprising. When you play virtually all the game (Durant played 49:17 of the possible 53 minutes), you’re not going to be much off the final score.
Russell Westbrook: plus five. For all of Westbrook’s idiosyncrasies, the Thunder plays better with him than without him.
Kendrick Perkins: plus three. Perk’s value in this series has been supreme.
Caron Butler: minus seven. The only Thunder in minus. Butler was on the court during Memphis’ big fourth-qaurter run.
Zach Randolph: minus 14. In the same way that Durant will be glad when Tony Allen is in his rearview mirror, the same is true of Randolph in regards to Perkins.
Beno Udrih: plus nine. The Grizzlies made their big fourth-quarter run with Udrih on the floor.
Here are the series plus/minus numbers for the Thunder:
Serge Ibaka +14
Derek Fisher +10
Russell Westbrook +9
Nick Collison +6
Thabo Sefolosha +4
Steven Adams +4
Kendrick Perkins +4
Kevin Durant +2
Nick Collison even
Perry Jones even
Jeremy Lamb -1
Hasheem Thabeet -2
Caron Butler -5
And the Memphis plus/minus numbers:
Beno Udrih +10
Tony Allen +10
Kosta Koufos +5
Jon Leuer +1
Mike Miller -2
Courtney Lee -4
Ed Davis -5
Mike Conley -8
Tayshaun Prince -8
James Johnson -9
Zach Randolph -10
Marc Gasol -20
Ibaka is having a heck of a series. He’s averaging 14.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.8 blocked shots and shooting
58.5 percent from the field. Only three other players have shot at least 50 percent – Perkins (66.7; 6-of-9), Udrih (58.3, 14 of 24) and Allen (51.1, 23 of 45).
The Thunder played excellent defense against Memphis – just not for most of the fourth quarter. Before the fourth quarter, only once did the Grizzlies score on three straight possessions. And rarely did Memphis even score on two straight possessions.
Then came the fourth quarter. Memphis scored on five of six possessions to trim a 52-65 deficit to 65-69. Then after the Thunder got two straight stops, the Grizzlies scored on six straight possessions to turn a 65-71 deficit into a 78-75 lead.
What happened during that stretch?
The Grizzlies did all their damage with a lineup of point guards Udrih and Mike Conley, wings Tony Allen and Mike Miller, and center Marc Gasol.
The first spree started against Thunder defenders Durant, Butler, Derek Fisher, Jackson and Ibaka. After three straight Memphis scores, Conley missed a 3-point shot, and Westbrook replaced Fisher. Those 13 Grizzly points came from two Udrih 3-pointers, a Conley 3-pointer, a Conley drive and Allen’s 3-point play off a putback. Clearly, the Memphis point guards were starting to find a rhythm. Yet Scotty Brooks stayed with his lineup and didn’t bring in defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha.
Memphis’ six-straight possession spurt came from a muscle shot by Allen in the paint, a Conley drive, a Miller 3-pointer, an Allen follow, two Conley foul shots and an Allen 17-foot jumper.
So it wasn’t the Memphis big men doing the damage.
I can understand Brooks’ decision. The Thunder was struggling so much on offense, he wanted to try five offensive-minded players. When Durant, Westbrook and Jackson are on the floor together, opposing coaches have some tough decisions to make.
Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger had Beno Udrih guarding Jackson most of the fourth quarter. Mike Conley dogged Westbrook and Allen stayed on Durant.
But what exactly was Butler doing? He clearly wasn’t much of the offensive flow and wasn’t even serving as a decoy. Better to get Thabo in the game to match up with Conley.
Durant, Westbrook and Jackson played together for 25:05 and outscored Memphis 45-43. The rest of the game’s 27:55, OKC outscored the Grizzlies 45-42. So there’s a defensive tradeoff.
Marc Gasol looked unstoppable early. Brooks was scrambling with his rotation. He benched Serge Ibaka for awhile, after Gasol’s hot start (10 first-quarter points), meaning Nick Collison guarded Zach Randolph and Perkins switched over to Gasol.
Brooks tried Steven Adams, but that led to quick fouls. Gasol was on target with those rainmaking jumpers.
But eventually, the Thunder wore down Gasol, who missed seven of his last eight shots to finish 10-of-21, with 23 points.
Meanwhile, Randolph’s frustrations continued. He made just five of 14 shots and didn’t play for 121/2 straight minutes, from late third quarter to late fourth quarter.
In four games of this series, Randolph has made just 27 of 75 shots. He’s needed 98 possessions to score his 73 points.
Kendrick Perkins, take a bow.
The Thunder has scored less and less as this series progresses: 100 points in Game 1, 99 in regulation of Game 2, 85 in regulation of Game 3, 80 in regulation of Game 4.
Durant is trending down, too: 13-of-25 in Game 1, 12-of-28 in Game 2, 10-of-27 in Game 3, 5-of-21 in Game 4.
Westbrook, too: 8-of-19, 11-of-28, 9-of-26, 6-of-24.
The Thunder won the games in which its dynamic duo shot the best and shot the poorest. Go figure.
“I tell them all the time, if you only think you can impact a game scoring, we’re not going to be successful,” Brooks said of Durant and Westbrook. “Kevin had 13 rebounds and Russell had 10 rebounds. They had seven and four assists. You impact the game many, many, many different ways. We’re built on defense; we’re built on teamwork. We haven’t made shots in three games. Sometimes that happens. Unfortunately, that’s happening to us now. Like I said, the last couple of games we just have to continue to figure out how to make the basketball move. I thought our ball movement was great in the first half and even in the second half. KD got great looks. It was one of those nights when the ball was bouncing in and out.”
If anyone ever wonders who’s in charge of the Grizzlies, rest easy. It’s point guard Mike Conley.
Conley didn’t play well in Game 4. But in overtime, there was no question who the Grizzlies relied on. After Jackson gave OKC an 86-85 lead with 1:59 left, Memphis had five more possessions.
All were Conley shots.
1. An 11-foot fallaway jumper that swished and gave Memphis its last lead.
2. A Conley drive that bounced off, with OKC up 88-87.
3. A 14-foot jumper that bounced off.
4. A Conley layup that the Thunder conceded, protecting a three-point lead with 3.8 seconds left.
5. A desperation 3-point with Jackson well-contesting at the buzzer.
Conley is 2-of-20 from 3-point range in this series. Coaches don’t let non-team leaders shoot that much. See Durant (9-of-34) and Westbrook (6-of-31).
“We had our chances,” Conley said. “We held two of their best scorers to where we want them to be. We just couldn’t stop Reggie Jackson from making plays at the end of the game. We had opportunities. We had good looks at the end of the game. We got turnovers, we got stops. We just gave up too many offensive rebounds, too many extra possessions.”
The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 15-12 in second-chance points. Neither figure is high considering the Thunder had 20 offensive rebounds and the Grizzlies 18.
Ibaka and Westbrook each had five offensive rebounds. Which seems like a lot until you realize Tony Allen had 10.
Westbrook and Ibaka each have 12 for the series, and Perkins has 10. But Allen has 17 and Randolph 15.
Still, Westbrook was phenomenal, flying around for teammates’ missed shots. Or his own. The game-winning points – the points that put OKC ahead for good – came off an offensive rebound. Jackson missed a 15-footer, Westbrook skied for the rebound and eventually got the ball to Durant, who was fouled. Durant sank both foul shots to give the Thunder an 88-87 lead.
“Those guys were the aggressors tonight,” Allen said. “They won the majority of the 50-50 balls. They played like they wanted it more. They beat us in the rebounding game. Having that many offensive rebounds gives them extra possessions. It was huge.”
The Thunder and Grizzlies both had taken care of the ball through three games.
Not so Saturday night. Each team scored 15 points off turnovers. OKC committed 21, Memphis 13.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 12.
But at least the Thunder made the Grizzlies pay more – OKC got its transition game going, outscoring Memphis 15-10 in fast-break points.
“We turned the ball over at inopportune times,” Joerger said. “We did not convert enough on their turnovers. I do not anticipate that they will turn it over 21 times again.”