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April 27, 2014

Jackson lifts Thunder to overtime victory over Memphis

MEMPHIS — After two days of hearing how Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook weren’t getting any help, Reggie Jackson decided it was time to leave his imprint on the postseason.

The reserve guard came off the bench and scored a career-high 32 points to lead Oklahoma City to a crucial 92-89 overtime victory over Memphis on Saturday at the Fed Ex Forum.

Jackson’s first  30-point plus scoring game couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I was just trusting myself,” Jackson said. “All the work I put in this summer. My teammates trusted me. They just allowed me to go out there and play free, have fun and we’re just fortunate to come out and get this win.”

It was the third straight overtime game between the two teams this postseason. The last time that happened was 2009 between Boston and Chicago.

"Both teams want to win," Westbrook said. "Nobody wants to go home. Obviously, we didn't want to go down 3-1. They wanted to go up 3-1. Both teams came out and competed to the best of their ability. We were fortunate enough to get the win."

The series is now tied 2-2 as it heads back to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Tuesday. But the situation easily could have been under different circumstances if not for the efforts of Jackson.

With 1:58 left in overtime, Jackson nailed two free throws to give the Thunder an 86-85 lead. Mike Conley answered with a step-back jumper in Westbrook’s face.

Durant drove to the basket and was fouled attempting a shot. He hit 2 for 2 from line and put Oklahoma City back in front with 1:02 remaining.

The Thunder forced the Grizz into a miss and had a chance to push lead to at least three. But two straight misses and a turnover by Westbrook gave the ball to Memphis with 30 seconds on the clock .

Conley missed a jumper and Jackson came up with the rebound. He knocked in a pair of free throws to make it a 3-point lead and close out the contest.

“We were struggling in the fourth quarter and he just took it over," Durant said of Jackson. "He was aggressive going to the rim all night. He just told himself before the game to be assertive. He made huge, huge plays and I’m so proud of him.”

Oklahoma City needed Jackson to come up big because the team’s biggest stars could not find their shot. Durant finished with 15 points on 5-for-21 shooting to go with 13 boards and five turnovers. Westbrook was 6 of 24 from the field for 15 points, along with five offensive rebounds and seven turnovers.

Even though their numbers didn’t show it, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said it was the work of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins that put them over the top.

“They are the DNA of our team,” Brooks said. “They give you everything they have and don’t get the opportunity to score. They play for the team every night. They do the dirty work. That’s what makes us a great team.”

Led by Jackson's 11-of-16 shooting, the Thunder bench outscored Memphis 43-30.

Marc Gasol paced the Grizzlies with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Conley and Tony Allen each posted 14 points in the loss.

“We did enough defensively to win the game,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. “But we didn’t do enough offensively.”

After the Thunder had built its lead to 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies continued to scrap and chop away at it. Memphis went on a 24-9 run to take 76-73 advantage with 3:28 left.

Durant’s frustration seemed to grow after each missed shot. His body language showed that he couldn’t figure out what was happening. It forced him to take ill-advised shots that were nowhere close to hitting the mark.

“Shots weren't falling, but that's not the whole game," Durant said. "I trusted in my teammates and they came through and knocked down some shots. I just need to get back to the drawing board, trust my work on my shot. I know Russell is going to do the same thing. Keep trusting in the process.”

Late in regulation, Gasol put the Grizzlies up by five when he drilled a mid-range jumper.

But Jackson, who had been the best player on the court all night, stormed back with five straight points to tie the contest with 30.6 seconds left.

Memphis got the ball to Gasol, but his shot was off. Allen stole the rebound from Durant and tried to put in a layup, but Ibaka got the block to send the game into overtime.

For Oklahoma City to win with Westbrook and Durant not playing their best offensively should give the team a boost heading into Game 5.

“I tell them all the time if all you can do is scoring, we are not going to be successful,” Brooks said. “You can impact the game in many, many ways. We are built on defense, we are built on team work.”

Michael Kinney

Follow me @eyeamtruth

mkinney@normantranscript.com

 

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