These were the games when the Thunder's youngsters were supposed to struggle. The nights where the inexperienced bench was supposed to cost OKC.
The 13-1 Spurs were in town, winners of 11 straight, bringing their veteran and potent second unit with them.
By regular-season standards, it was a big game on a big stage. And to win, you'd figure, the Thunder would have to lean heavily on its stars and less on its young guns.
But something funny happened during the Thunder's biggest victory of the season on Wednesday, a 94-88 slugfest over the Spurs.
The script flipped.
Kevin Durant (24 points on 23 shots) struggled for a majority of the night and Russell Westbrook (six points on 2-of-16 shooting) labored through all of it.
But OKC's bench, maligned before the season but thriving now, picked up all the slack.
And much of that rested on the shoulders of Reggie Jackson.
The Thunder's 23-year-old third-year point guard tied a career-high with 23 points, needing only 14 shots to outscore every member of the Spurs by at least eight points.
He kept the Thunder afloat in the first half, scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, and he closed out the Spurs in the second, scoring eight straight points to start the fourth quarter and a couple clutch buckets down the stretch.
Overall, he was 6-of-7 for 14 points in the final quarter, taking over offensively and reminding Thunder fans of James Harden's brightest days in Thunder blue.
“Reggie Jackson kicked our (rear),” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said postgame.
Jackson was the leader of OKC's improving second unit on Wednesday. But he wasn't the only crucial contributor.
Jeremy Lamb scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Nick Collison drew a big charge. And Derek Fisher made a few Derek Fisher-type plays.
But Jackson was the star, using his unique ability to slither through defensive holes and finish on the floater or with either hand around the rim.
He's had some big performances. But considering the stage and opponent, this was likely his biggest.
“Nobody can stay in front of him,” Durant said of Jackson. “When he is just aggressive to the rim, that's what we need from him. He gave us a nice spark. Those guys, him, Jeremy, Fish, those guys are really the reason we won this basketball game.”