HOUSTON — When OKC finally was able to eliminate the Houston Rockets from this year's NBA playoffs on Friday night, the Thunder's key components were not members of the starting lineup trying to make up for the absence of three-time All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.
Instead, it was Reggie Jackson, Westbrook's second-year replacement who was wearing street clothes at the end of the bench during the postseason last year.
Spurred by the impressively stable play of Jackson and three key reserves, the Thunder posted a 103-94 victory over the Rockets in Game 6 to win the best-of-7 opening-round series.
OKC advances to the second round against Memphis, which eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. Game 1 against the Grizzlies will be at noon on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Playing a team-high 44 1/2 minutes, Jackson finished with 17 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, one steal and two measly turnovers.
Even more impressive is the fact Jackson much of this came playing alongside three reserves he often looks to for guidance.
Sixth man Kevin Martin broke out of a scoring slump with 25 points, shooting 7 for 13 from the line, 3 for 5 from 3-point range and 8 for 8 from the free-throw line. This came on the heels of 1 for 10 shooting in a Game 5 loss at home during which he missed his first nine shots from the floor.
“I was really impressed with him,” fellow reserve Nick Collison said of Martin. “He had a really tough night in Game 5 and you could tell he was down. I didn't know how he'd react, to be honest with you.”
Veteran reserve Derek Fisher, who was playing the 235th postseason game of his 17-year career, had 11 timely points, shooting 4 for 6 from the field and 3 for 5 from 3-point range and also added two steals.
“You wouldn't be able to tell (he is 38 years old),” a smiling Jackson said of Fisher. “We were just talking. We think for his next contract, we're going to sign him to a four-year (deal). He's great.”
Collison, who was virtually ignored playing just 6 1/2 minutes in a Game 5 loss, had 10 points, nine rebounds and one block in 22 minutes.
After losing two straight against the Rockets, Collison admitted it was a bit disconcerting.
“It's stressful, yeah. All these playoff series are stressful,” Collison said. “We've been playing some different lineups this series and I think we finally found something that worked for us.
“I think the best thing that we did was we just stayed locked in and played every possession, regardless of what happened at one end, we didn't flinch.”