1. With Durant Afire, Jackson Fanning Flames
SAN ANTONIO -- Only a handful of questions from some pesky reporters stood between Reggie Jackson and a postgame shower. You wouldn't blame him if he wanted to take his time before addressing the media.
"I'm just gonna put on a T-shirt and get this over with," Jackson said to no one in particular as he turned around to throw a white undershirt on over his towel and then face the recorders.
Tedious though it may be, Jackson will need to get used to the attention if he continues to perform against the Western Conference's best the way he does against the Spurs. On a night when Kevin Durant continued his blistering scoring performances, putting up 36 points on 22 shots for his ninth straight game of 30-plus points, Jackson added to the onslaught, scoring 27 points, with eight assists and zero turnovers against San Antonio in a 111-105 win. Oklahoma City is now 10-5 without Russell Westbrook this season.
"I thought he did a good job of finding spots on the floor that he can finish around the rim and he also does a good job of finding guys that are open," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Jackson's performance in San Antonio on Wednesday night continues a positive trend for the third-year guard against the No. 2 team in the Western Conference. He has scored at least 20 points in six games this season, and three of those performances have come against the Spurs, averaging 23.7 points and 4.7 assists versus San Antonio.
With the two teams widely expected to collide in the Western Conference finals this spring, Jackson could pick worse teams to have standout performances against.
"I guess I have a tendency to find some holes and weak spots against them," Jackson said. "Their bigs, their defensive scheme is kind of playing off and playing back, so I get a few floaters going early and I think I've just been feeling good."
Indeed, the Spurs big men don't attack opposing guards on pick-and-rolls, preferring instead to hang back in the lane and prevent layups. Any ability to hit the shots presented between the 3-point line and the rim are there for the taking.
Jackson followed that scouting report to the letter. Floaters and pull-up jumpers early opened up the floor for Jackson and the Thunder as the game wore on, especially when Kawhi Leonard left the game in the first half with a non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal on his right hand.
With no backup small forward to put on Durant, the Spurs rotated the likes of Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph on the league's leading scorer. In the fourth quarter, Jackson scored a team-high 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting and helped the Thunder maintain the lead.
While the Spurs did an admirable job on Durant -- they forced him into committing 11 turnovers, prompting Durant to label himself "dumb" -- the MVP contender continued his scoring tear and hit a pair of 3-pointers late to put the game out of reach.
"Having a guy like that on your team and in your corner," Jackson said of Durant, "I think the mindset is just stay close in the game and normally he'll bring it home."
And bring it home Durant did. KD will always produce big performances and draw the most attention, both on and off court, but Jackson is starting to find his share of attention as he comes through for the Thunder when the spotlight is on. So far, he's showing he can handle it on the court. As for off of it? The first step is being dressed for the occasion.
Andrew McNeill writes about the NBA at 48 Minutes Of Hell, part of the TrueHoop Network.
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2. Around The Association
MVP: Gerald Green showed multiple dimensions against his former squad, scoring 23 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, but also attacking the rim enough to earn 10 free throws. His poster-worthy jam over Roy Hibbert in the first half was symbolic of his night.
LVP: Hibbert struggled with the fast pace, and his night included a technical foul, foul trouble and little production. He had 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in the first quarter, but added just one rebound in 28 minutes.
Defining moment: Markieff Morris hit two 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter, and the shots turned the momentum back in the Suns' favor after the Pacers seemed to push back. The second shot over Hibbert said it all about the matchup troubles Phoenix posed to Indiana.
MVP: On the night when the Bucks distributed his bobblehead, Caron Butler fittingly scored a team-high 30 points. Butler converted only 2-of-10 3-point shots, but did connect on 10 of his 11 two-point attempts.
X factor: Searching for size to counteract Detroit's front line late in the game, Larry Drew turned to 7-foot-1 Miroslav Raduljica for all but 2 seconds of the fourth quarter. Raduljica finished the game with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Defining moment: Rodney Stuckey (23 points) spent most of the game ambushing the Bucks from the elbows. But with 1:30 remaining, ex-Piston Khris Middleton blocked Stuckey twice to preserve a 104-101 lead that eventually became the final score.
MVP: Its become a formality at this point, but Kevin Durant had 36 points on just 22 shots, and down the stretch of a tight game, he and his teammates could not be stopped -- especially after Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard went down with a broken hand.
X factor: Reggie Jackson has become a Spurs-killer. He had 27 points and eight assists in the win, pushing his season average against San Antonio to 23.7 points per game on 67 percent shooting. Tough to ask for a better backup to Russell Westbrook.
That game was & bittersweet. Oklahoma City continues to play incredible basketball despite the absence of one of the best players in the NBA, and Durant was once again mesmerizing in the fourth quarter. But Leonard, another exciting young player, was knocked out due to injury in a league currently rife with them.
MVP: Dwight Howard struggled from the free throw line as he finished 6-for-17, but he did have 26 points, 13 rebounds and played excellent defense, including a monster block against DeMarcus Cousins.
X factor: The Rockets average 14 fast-break points a game, but they forced the Kings into 13 turnovers to finish with 29 points in transition. James Harden in particular took advantage, as all seven of his made shots came at the rim.
That was ... unfortunate: Injuries to Rudy Gay (Achilles tendon) and Cousins (sprained left ankle) derailed the game as the Kings lacked the firepower to hang with Houston's offense.
MVP: Evan Turner was unstoppable in every way. He came away with a career-high 34 points, including the game-sealing pull-up jumper in transition. On top of this, he bothered the Knicks' perimeter players and grabbed 11 rebounds.
X factor: Michael Carter-Williams, a strong rookie of the year candidate, struggled with his shooting, going 5-for-18, but made up for it everywhere else. He collected more offensive rebounds than the Knicks as a whole through three quarters, finishing with nearly a triple-double: 19 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists.
Defining moment: With 1:47 to go in the final period, the Knicks trailed by just two. Iman Shumpert and Carmelo Anthony weren't on the same page on a Sixers screen, and Thaddeus Young found himself wide open for a dagger 3. Indicative of this game for the Knicks, and their season as well.
MVP: Jeff Green. The former Georgetown star was on fire while playing on his alma mater's home floor at Verizon Center. Green scored a season-high 39 points and hit a career-high eight 3-pointers to carry a shorthanded Boston squad and overshadow a triple-double from John Wall.
Defining moment: With the Celtics' top three guards out due to rest/injury and rookie point guard Phil Pressey having fouled out in the closing seconds of overtime, coach Brad Stevens turned to Gerald Wallace to run point on Boston's final possession. The veteran delivered, taking the ball coast-to-coast for a game-winning layup against a surprised Wizards defense.
That was ... desperately needed: Despite nearly blowing a 19-point lead, the Celtics snapped a 10-game road losing streak and put a stop to a skid in which they had lost 15 of their past 17 overall.
MVP: DeMar DeRozan channeled his inner Kevin Durant and had a career-high 40 points on just 22 field goal attempts. His midrange game was on point and he got to the free throw line at will.
X factor: Greivis Vasquez came in late in the first quarter and helped cut the 21-point Mavericks lead down to five at the half, thanks in large part to his wizardry in the pick-and-roll. He even made a rare appearance in crunch time to help the Raptors close out the game. He had 17 points and seven assists.
That was ... not pretty: With Dirk Nowitzki out (rest), the Mavs struggled to generate open looks in the fourth. Monta Ellis failed to step up and Jose Calderon's shot stopped dropping, which culminated in a measly total of 12 points scored in the fourth. The Raptors grabbed the lead with 3:38 left in the game and never looked back.
3. Wednesday's Best
Jeff Green, Celtics: Green scored a season-high 39 points in the Celtics' 113-111 overtime victory in Washington that snapped a 10-game road losing streak. The former Georgetown star finished with nine rebounds alongside career-highs in 3-pointers attempted (16) and made (8).
4. Wednesday's Worst
Kyle Singler, Pistons:
He was no Singler sensation in the 104-101 loss to Milwaukee, the NBA's worst team. Singler went 0-for-7 from the floor in 19 minutes of inaction, missing all four of his 3-point attempts.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
With Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb playing well, OKC will be the team to beat in the west when Westbrook gets back!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 23, 2014
7. Quote Of The Night
"We've got to believe that we can win a game."
-- Knicks coach Mike Woodson, after his team lost to the Sixers 110-106, its fifth straight loss.
8. Ex-Pacer Sets The Pace
9. Stat Check
Kevin Durant had 36 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the win over the Spurs. He is one of eight players in NBA history with 30 points, four rebounds and four assists in each of seven straight games in single season. He joins Oscar Robertson (7 times), LeBron James (4), Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Tracy McGrady.
10. TrueHoop TV
Around the Association
MVP: Taj Gibson did about all that could be asked of him as he stepped into the starting spot for an injured Carlos Boozer. He set the tone early, and provided a steady presence for the Bulls on the offensive end. He contributed a career-high 26 points, as well as five rebounds and three blocks in a full 42 minutes of action.
X factor: D.J. Augustin. You never know exactly what kind of production you are going to get out of him, but he was right on the money tonight, putting up 27 points on only 14 shots. By knocking down five 3-pointers and dishing out seven assists, he provided the Bulls with another offensive option alongside Gibson.
LVP: C.J. Miles saw only 20 minutes of action, and he wasn't able to do too much with his minutes. He shot slightly over 30 percent from the floor while putting up eight points and posting a game-low plus/minus mark of minus-16.
MVP: Big Al Jefferson was not only the Bobcats' leader in points and rebounds with 24 and 10, respectively, but he was also their rock. Whenever Charlotte needed a basket to keep the Clippers at bay, Al delivered -- even with DeAndre Jordan draped all over him.
X factor: The Clippers' early mistakes. They turned it over five times in the first quarter, totaling 14 fumbles and 14 points allowed off turnovers; the Clippers scored just nine off Bobcats turnovers. Eliminate that five-point difference and L.A. wins by one.
Defining moment: In the final 60 seconds, the Clippers had three possessions to deliver. They faltered, going 1-for-5. Where the Bobcats prospered without Kemba Walker, the Clippers sorely missed their floor leader and crunch-time aficionado, Chris Paul.
MVP: Paul Millsap, who barely missed out on a 5-by-5. He finished with 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 5 blocks.
X factor: The Hawks had a 19-point lead at one point in the third quarter, but Victor Oladipo helped rally the Magic back to give them a shot to win. The rookie had 24 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
LVP: Arron Afflalo had a size advantage at shooting guard all night, but it was his backups who took more advantage of it. Afflalo had only six points (3-for-9 shooting), almost 15 points below his season average.