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Breaking down Reggie Jackson's 23 point performance in the Thunder win over the Spurs

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On a career-high night, he was able to lead the Thunder to victory over the Spurs. But how?

Reggie Jackson gives us his take on Ibaka's "Wings" and Jason Terry's "JET" maneuver.
Reggie Jackson gives us his take on Ibaka's "Wings" and Jason Terry's "JET" maneuver.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

We all knew that something big was going to happen Wednesday night, but none of us knew that it would be a huge coming out party for Reggie Jackson. Against the NBA's top ranked team, he was able to tie a career high 23 points and score tons of crucial baskets in the fourth quarter. How did he get there? Let's use MySynergySports to take a look at all 10 of his field goals, picture by picture.

(If you don't care to look at the plays, you can skip straight to the bottom for my conclusion.)


Play 1:


The Thunder set up the second quarter with something vaguely similar to HORNS, but not exactly the same. Before Jackson can get the offense started, Derek Fisher is running to the opposite sideline.


More things happen as Jeremy Lamb streaks in front of the two sets of big men to the other sideline, and Steven Adams moves to the post.


All of these moves might have seemed silly by now, but they accomplished a very important goal: Clearing out the lane. With Patty Mills playing extremely high-pressure defense, Jackson was able to blow by him and have a great opportunity for a mid-range shot or layup.


Jackson opts for the drive, squeezing between Ayres and Bellinelli for an easy deuce.


Play 2:


Jeremy Lamb brings the ball up the floor after grabbing the rebound. Nothing much to note so far, other than the fact that Patty Mills was watching the ball again, leaving him far from defending Reggie Jackson.


Collison sets a screen for Lamb, who dribbles to the top of the key. If you'll watch Mills, he's anticipating a mid-range shot from Lamb (who's particularly deadly in that area), so he sags off of Jackson.


Jackson spots three feet behind the line for an uncontested three. Splash. This play was particularly strange, because RJ is only shooting 23.1% on the year.


Play 3:


Reggie Jackson sets up the offense in HORNS, with both big men standing in the high post and both wings standing in the corner. He passes off to Adams, who will hold the ball while the play develops.


Reggie Jackson runs into the post, and Derek Fisher, who's in the far corner, now has two choices. He can take the baseline screen from Jackson and look for a shot near the rim, or he can take the high screen from Collison and look for a mid-range shot. Seeing that Collison's defender is in worse position to defend his potential shot, Fisher takes Collison's screen.


Unfortunately, Adams takes too long to give Fisher the pass, thanks to some good defense from Jeff Ayres. Fisher gets the ball in mid-stride near the top of the arc, while Nick Collison rolls into the post. Diaw sniffed out the play too quickly for Collison to get an open layup, but he's done enough to draw the attention of Patty Mills. You'll have to enlarge the image to see it, but Mills' attention is clearly not focused on his defender, which was enough breathing room for Reggie to make his move.


RJ pops out to the mid-range area, and Mills is too far behind. He receives a quick pass from Fisher and drains the mid-range shot with ease.


Play 4:


Reggis Jackson brings the ball up the floor, with Adams in tow. For some reason, Patty Mills makes a terrible tactical error (he literally just moved to the wrong place), leaving Jackson with an easy route to the basket. Boris Diaw is forced to hedge and prevent RJ from getting into the post. He dishes it off to the open Adams, who is too far from the basket for a shot.


Adams, stuck in no man's land, dribbles out to the perimeter and gives the ball to KD. He attempts to set up a simple screen and roll play, but Durant, knowing Diaw's speed, refuses the screen. Durant then dishes the ball back to Jackson, who has little time left on the shot clock.


Adams now makes an effort to post up Diaw, and Jackson has the option to pass it to him. His position is never good enough though, so Jackson orders him to back off and the play turns into an ISO.


Here, Reggie Jackson does something incredibly sly. Knowing how close Patty Mills plays on-ball defense (he was pressuring Jackson all game), Jackson backs off from the perimeter. Moreover, he stares directly at Durant, whom most would expect to take the shot in this type of situation. Appropriately, Mills tries to close off that passing lane.


Reggie Jackson then stuns Mills by immediately switching directions, crossing the ball over, and taking off. He appears to he heading towards the other side of the court, further confusing Mills, who continually attempts to stay on the right side of Jackson.


Jackson then stuns Mills with another misdirection, diving to the left of Adams and Diaw. Mills is completely removed from the play, while a semi-screen from Adams keeps Diaw away from the play as well. Jackson takes off towards the rim.


Jackson is met there by Jeff Ayres, but has the presence of mind to flip it over his hand for an easy two.


Play 5:


Here, the play starts off with Reggie Jackson in semi-fast break mode.


He settles down near the edge of the three point line, seemingly ready to take a quick screen and roll from Ibaka.


But Patty Mills anticipates the screen and roll too early, lunging for the ball and ending up between Ibaka and Jackson.


Jackson takes advantage, and now finds himself surrounded with defenders. Luckily, he had a full head of steam and was able to slide between Splitter and Green.


Bang. He's at the rim for another two points.


Play 6:


This play begins rather quickly, as the Thunder are fortunate enough to have only four Spurs defending them this time down the court. Manu Ginobili had fallen on the previous play, leaving Derek Fisher without a man to guard him. Jackson sees this and looks for the immediate advantage, dishing the ball to Fisher cross-court.


Fisher receives the ball, but he's not in rhythm for the shot. Moreover, he followed the ball too far and accidentally put his foot on the line, making any potential shot a bad attempt. Furthermore, Boris Diaw arrived in time to provide some level of shot defense, and Ginobili is only a couple seconds from getting back to Fisher.

On the other side of the court, Patty Mills was watching the ball, and lost track of Jackson again. Jackson goes out to the perimeter to receive the pass from Fisher. Fisher could have dished it to Lamb as well, but Green was in position to defend the three, and Diaw was in the passing lane.


Jackson sets up, and prepares to receive a screen from Ibaka on the strong side of the ball.


He takes the screen, but immediately runs into a wall of Ginobili and Diaw. He almost loses the ball, but backs out. Derek Fisher is wide open at this time, but RJ had too much momentum to throw him a pass in rhythm. Meanwhile, Nick Collison backs out to the three point line, attempting to give Jackson space to work.


Jackson recovers, and now finds himself with a mismatch against Boris Diaw. He tells Ibaka to back off, so he can turn the play into another ISO.


He charges towards Diaw, and then performs a sly step-back. This is the point where a player like Stephen Curry would shoot the ball, but Reggie's more of a rhythm shooter, and likes to stop when going forward. The move has put Diaw on his heels, and given Jackson the space he needs to run. Ginobili comes over to help, but he doesn't commit.


And thus, Reggie steps between the two defenders and gets a clear path to the rim. This shot might look difficult from this angle, but it's actually a really good attempt. Both Diaw and Green are out of position to block the shot, making Splitter the only player who can actually affect the attempt. Needless to say, Jackson nails it.


Play 7:


Reggie Jackson brings the ball up the floor, and immediately dishes the ball to Lamb, who had run out from the post. Lamb attempts to isolate Green for a short while, but nothing comes of it.


Jackson calls for the ball (and likely, an offensive reset), but Lamb ignores him. Lamb sets up a screen with Ibaka towards the corner. Meanwhile, Collison and Fisher back out in order to create space.


The screen succeeds in drawing Splitter off of Ibaka, who receives the pass. Patty Mills was watching the play though, and he was ready to help on Ibaka. This leaves Reggie Jackson wide open on the perimeter. Unsurprisingly, he gets the pass from Ibaka.


Patty Mills runs over to get back on Jackson, expecting a shot. Jackson fakes him out, and Mills flies by.


No one is in position to stop Jackson at the top of the key. Ginobili thought about it, but decided against it and went back to prevent a Fisher three. Thus, Jackson rises up for an easy splash.


Play 8:


This play starts rather late in the shot clock because Jackson had thrown a cross-court pass to Lamb, who decided against shooting the ball and handed it back. Reggie Jackson calls for HORNS, so Derek Fisher starts towards the opposite sideline, Lamb inches down his sideline, and Ibaka and Collison head towards the high post.


With 11 seconds left on the shot clock and not all players in position, there's not much time left to run a play. Nevertheless, Ibaka steps up for a pick and roll.


Jackson proceeds to torpedo the play when he recognizes Patty Mills attempting to run through the screen again. With Mills in tow, Jackson manages to find a seam between Splitter and Diaw....


And all of a sudden, he has a clear path to the basket. Two points.


Play 9:


At this point, the starters had come back in, so Reggie Jackson was working off the ball. Yet again, you see the Thunder lining up in a HORNS set, and Russell Westbrook takes a Serge Ibaka screen to the left.


Duncan and Parker anticipate Westbrook's charge to the rim, and ignore Ibaka, who's standing right behind them. Westbrook athletically jumps over both of them and attempts to swing a pass to Ibaka, who's in perfect position for the score.


The pass had a bit too much mustard on it, so the ball bounced off of Ibaka's hand. Ginobili had come over to help on the play, so Jackson was able to collect the rock in open space.


Ginobili overplays his recovery on defense, and Jackson is able to fake him out and go for the drive. With Ibaka fighting off Duncan, the lane looks open.


Sadly for Reggie, Ginobili is able to recover, and Duncan is able to get past Ibaka. RJ stops just short of the rim and has his shot blocked.


Amazingly, Reggie recovers the ball, and draws a great mismatch with Tim Duncan.


He quickly flips up a semi-floater over the slower Duncan, and the shot falls. Just an awesome, awesome recovery here.


Play 10:


Russell Westbrook dribbles up the floor and dishes it to Ibaka. I don't have a name for this play, but the Thunder love to do this with Perkins all the time. Basically, the point guard hands it off to a big man way behind the three point line, and the big man hands it off to a wing. At that point, the big man will either set an on or off ball screen while the wing goes to work.


In this play, Ibaka hands the ball off to Sefolosha.


Ibaka then proceeds to set up an off-ball screen for Durant, who runs out to receive the ball. Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson cuts to the other side of the floor in order to create space for Durant and Westbrook.


Durant sets up at the top of the key. Westbrook fools Tony Parker with a nice cut, and has a clear lane to the basket. Durant lobs him a pass.


However, Westbrook doesn't have the momentum to get to the rim, and Tim Duncan is right there to stop the drive. Before long, Westbrook is triple-teamed in the post with no passing options.


Westbrook attempts to back up, but Parker and Ginobili are on his case. Ginobili tips the ball out of Westbrook's hand, so Westbrook dives, grabs the ball in mid-air, and literally shovel-passes it to Reggie Jackson, who is standing under the hoop.


Tim Duncan isn't ready for it, and Reggie Jackson nails what's essentially a game-clinching layup. Sweet.



Okay, so here's what I've been able to learn about Reggie Jackson:

  • He never gives up on a play. I think this is the most important aspect of his game, and what separates him from most other players. I don't want to name other names on the Thunder specifically (because I feel it would detract from the post), but suffice it to say, Perkins and Westbrook are guilty of the aforementioned sin. In any case, RJ's head is in the game from start to end, and his ability to sense open areas of the court off the ball and recover from setbacks on the ball really helped him do well in this game.
  • He's a great "playoff basketball" type of player. We all know that playoff basketball games, in general, are more hard-fought than regular season games. But Wednesday night's game was a "playoff basketball" type of game. Lots of tough defense, missed open shots, loose balls, and less well-rehearsed plays. Basically, the atmosphere was more chaotic, and things that you don't expect are constantly happening. Because of his aforementioned ability to never give up on a play, Reggie Jackson thrives in this environment. If you don't believe me, look at his playoff gamelog from last year and tell me I'm wrong.
  • He'll destroy anybody who's pressuring him. Reggie Jackson is kind of a turnover machine, as he averages 2.5 Turnovers a game and has a 1.52 Assist to Turnover ratio. But he's really good at taking advantage of a defender who simply won't give him any space, like Patty Mills. Mills was bodying Jackson all night long, even giving Jackson the business while they were both well-behind the half-court line. But Jackson's turnovers aren't usually due to bad ballhandling, with a lot of them coming on traveling calls, charging calls, or bad passes. In fact, Mills didn't play a factor in either of Jackson's turnovers tonight. Honestly, if you're guarding Jackson, the best strategy is probably to give him lots of space, given his poor three point shooting.
  • He doesn't jack up bad shots. He's averaging 54.8% from inside the arc this year, while Russell Westbrook is averaging 41.5%. Granted, Westbrook has been a bit off on shots that he normally makes while recovering from injury. But even if Westbrook was fully recovered, it's rare to see him have a better shooting night than Jackson. Part of this is a difference in talent, since Jackson probably wouldn't shoot as well as Westbrook if he shot as often as Westbrook did. But part of this is simply a difference in play style, and once you realize it, both of their roles begin to make more sense. Westbrook plays with a less offensively potent lineup, forcing him to do more, while Reggie Jackson plays with more offensive options on the floor, so he's relied upon less. When things work out ideally for Jackson, he'll have a night like tonight.
  • Jackson runs plays. This was touched upon in a previous article, and it's obvious to most onlookers, but Reggie Jackson's style of offense is entirely different than Westbrook's. As you can see above, even the isolation plays that Reggie Jackson ran weren't happening very early in the shot clock, and he always seems to have a set play in mind. On the other hand, Westbrook runs simple, haphazard plays that tend to end much earlier in the shot clock.
  • He changes direction extremely well. The quickness he showed on some of the plays above was simply astounding.
Anyway, I really hope that the next time the Spurs play the Thunder, they continue to put Patty Mills or some other high-pressure defender on Reggie Jackson. In my opinion, it was the difference in last night's game, and what allowed the bench lineup to go on that crucial run early in the fourth. Of course, the game was sealed by traditional Westbrook-Durant heroics, but Jackson's contribution is definitely worth noting.

What did you think about Jackson's performance last night? Let us know in the comments!