By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Reggie Jackson took it personally. The second-year point guard put Oklahoma City’s Game 2 loss to Memphis squarely on his shoulders.
Jackson’s reasoning had other factors than scoring 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting and only two assists. It was the fact he lost the backcourt matchup to the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, who posted 26 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
“I take that personal, especially since I almost gave the guy a triple-double,” Jackson said. “Can’t let that happen again. I feel that great players always take things personally with matchups. Like I’ve said since Day One, I want to be great, so I have to do a better job of slowing him down and not letting him by, not letting the head of the snake bite us again.”
Jackson will get another shot at Conley in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal which begins at 4 p.m. today at the FedEx Forum, which has been nicknamed the “Grindhouse.”
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re ready to go out to Memphis and play a basketball game. We know what we have to do and we’re excited about the challenge. We’re going there to try to win Game 3. That’s always been our focus — worrying about each game. Our guys have thrived having that mentality all year long.”
Jackson knows his defense on Conley will have to be tighter. But the best defense is a good offense. He wants to put the pressure on Conley, and make him work on both ends of the court.
“I’m going to try and get in the paint and make plays,” Jackson said. “That’s kind of my role on this team and the abilities I have. I just have to stay aggressive. Put the pedal to the metal and make plays.”
Jackson was moved into the Oklahoma City starting lineup in Game 3 of the first-round series against Houston after Russell Westbrook’s postseason came to an end. But that hasn’t stopped Westbrook from mentoring his former backup.
“I’m definitely talking to Reggie a lot more,” Westbrook said. “But I also want him to learn and get better. You don’t want to tell a guy to go out there and do all these different things. You kind of want him to learn. It’s a learning process for him as well as it is me.”
While Kevin Durant has taken over much of the ball handling duties and directs the offense, especially in the fourth quarter, Westbrook likes what he’s seen from Jackson, who was playing on the franchise’s Developmental League team (Tulsa 66ers) early in the season.
“It’s a huge part,” Westbrook said. “I think the whole process, a lot of people may skip through that. Going to Tulsa, coming back up and playing in different games. Reggie missed half of the year, didn’t play. And then he started playing. I think all of that is a process and you can see it’s helping him out. He never really looked rattle or anything. He’s kind of just smooth and plays his game.”
Jackson will start his seventh game of the postseason Saturday when the Thunder travel today to Memphis. Westbrook has nothing but confidence in Jackson. Not to fill his shoes, but be his own man on the court.
“Reggie’s done a great job of playing his game,” Westbrook said. “He’s been playing with good composure, I think, especially going to Houston and taking care of those games and now getting ready to head to Memphis. I think he’s done a great job of just controlling the game. Obviously KD handles the ball a little more. But I think Reggie’s done a great job of just being consistent and playing his game.”
If Jackson can help the Thunder pull out a victory, home-court advantage moves back to Oklahoma City. Derek Fisher knows it’s an important game, but says his team is ready for the challenge and physical nature the Grizz will present.
“It’ll be important, especially with an afternoon game tomorrow, for us to basically wake up with our pads on,” Fisher said. “(We have to be) ready to go out there and hit and be ready to play a physical basketball game.”
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