SAN ANTONIO — Reggie Jackson snagged the ball when Russell Westbrook chucked a one-handed pass in his direction and didn’t hesitate.
Thursday night’s game wasn’t even a quarter old, and already, Jackson had scored double-digit points and had made every shot that he’d taken. He had buckets in transition, on drives, then came that three.
Flashbacks to James Harden, circa 2012?
Harden, you remember, had the big performance in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals that year, punctuated by a game-clinching three late in the game. Jackson seemed to be playing the part of Harden two years later.
Trouble is, we’re still waiting for Jackson to hit another basket.
The corner three with 3:25 left in the first quarter was the last shot he hit Thursday night. He was held scoreless the final 23 minutes, 49 seconds that he played.
Worse for the Thunder, Jackson wasn’t the only role player who struggled in the Spurs’ 117-89 rout in Game 5.
“Role players are playing well at home, I guess,” Jackson said.
And not so well on the road. But if the Thunder is to win the last two games of this series, including a game back in San Antonio where the Spurs have looked immortal, role players will have to travel. Guys not named Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will have to be better than they were Thursday night.
Almost no amount of heroics from Batman and Superman could make up for their sidekicks’ shortcomings.
Serge Ibaka: six points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Steven Adams: six points, 3 of 4.
Derek Fisher: five points, 2 of 5.
Nick Collison: five points, 1 of 1.
Caron Butler: two points, 0 of 3.
Jeremy Lamb: four points, 2 of 6.
As good as Westbrook and Durant were offensively in the two games in Oklahoma City, they were helped a bunch by their helpers. Ibaka and Jackson put up big numbers in Game 3, then several players hit timely shots in Game 4. No one other than Durant and Westbrook scored in double figures that night, but Ibaka, Butler and Adams all knocked down shots when given the opportunity.
Thursday night, the Spurs could throw a little extra defensive focus on Durant and Westbrook because their Thunder teammates were so off kilter.
The Thunder scored 32 points in the first quarter, then managed only 57 the rest of the game.
“Our shots weren’t falling for us,” said Durant, who finished 11 of 21 for 25 points. “We’ve got to stay aggressive, and we’ve got to get stops. When we can’t make a shot, we’ve got to play defense, and we didn’t tonight.”
Defense was definitely a problem. So good in Oklahoma City, it led to all kinds of transition opportunities and chances to set up the offense before the Spurs could get set.
Thursday night, those easier looks on the offensive end dried up because the Thunder wasn’t nearly as good on the defensive end.
“So, every time we came down, they were able to set up in their halfcourt defense,” Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins said. “With San Antonio, you’ve got to force turnovers, get stops, get out and run before they can set up on their end.
“We got stagnant, started holding the ball a little bit, trying to make the home-run plays. We’ve just got to get back to trusting each other.”
It’s hard for Durant and Westbrook to trust, though, when the rest of the guys on the court aren’t scoring it any better than they were Thursday night.
Here’s an eye-popping stat: the Spurs’ bench outscored the Thunder’s 54-26.
Listen, the Thunder bench is never going to be as productive offensively as the Spur bench now that Jackson is part of the starting lineup. He was the only bench player who could match what Manu Ginobili gives the Spurs off the bench. But still, the Thunder reserves can’t get out done like this.
Guys not named Durant and Westbrook don’t have to score 40 points, but having a few in double figures is critical.
Jackson was the only other player besides Durant and Westbrook to score in double figures Thursday night, but he finished with the 11 points that he had at the end of the first quarter. After the game, he took the blame for this loss, said it started with his poor defensive effort and bled over to what was happening on the offensive end.
“I was getting abused,” he said. “Turned it over, definitely did that. Once they started putting two on the ball, I was just trying to find my teammates to make the right play.”
Instead, things for Jackson and the rest of the sidekicks went from splash down to crash down.
So did the Thunder.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.