Jackson saves game as Thunder even series

Reggie Jackson scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter.

MEMPHIS — Russell Westbrook walked off the Grindhouse floor chirping with a Grizzlies fan, who gave him a not-so-hospitable salute.

Reggie Jackson walked off quietly, in his pocket a knotted up Grizzlies-Thunder series tied at two, now wide open for the taking — and his mouth closed.

Oklahoma City should have traded Westbrook instead of James Harden.

Jackson would have worked out just fine alongside Kevin Durant. After a rough start to the series, Jackson finished Oklahoma City’s 92-89 overtime win Saturday in Game 4 of this ever-wild opening round series with 32 points, 32 out-of-his-mind career-high points.

He played 37 minutes, 22 seconds and had nine rebounds to help the Thunder out-board the Grizzlies by 10.

Harden worked out. Kevin Martin had his moments. Jackson has worked out AND had his moment in Memphis.

With the Grizzlies up 80-75 and 80 seconds to play, Jackson hit a 3-pointer. After a Durant steal, he pulled up for a 9-foot runner that tied it. 

The bonehead 61-foot heave with 3.3 seconds to spare in regulation is not only forgiven, but forgotten.

So are his last three games, in which Thunder coach Scott Brooks had to point out the eight rebounds he had in Game 1 to make it look like he wasn’t a total disaster on 3-of-19 shooting.

"I knew he would bounce back," said Brooks. "That’s what he’s done for us when he started and he’s done a great job of coming in and giving us that lift offensively when we’ve needed him as the sixth man."

He almost single-handedly ended Memphis’ franchise-record 15-game home win streak and sent the Grizzlies from a 3-1 lead to a 2-2 tie headed back to OKC. Durant and Westbrook were deferring to him down the stretch. That was Harden-esque.

"We saw how he was attacking and how he was putting pressure on the defense and we just gave him the ball," said Durant. "Russell’s a threat, I’m a threat without the ball, so we kept them honest and Reggie did a good job driving … making the right basketball play."

Jackson is the opposite of Westbrook. He doesn’t flail his body around to draw fouls. He’s not wearing that weird wetsuit thing Westbrook wore to the Game 3 press conference. He cleaned up all the trash from his locker before addressing the media. He hit all six of his free throws in overtime, four to seal it and 8-for-8 in the game.

The Grizzlies hit 13-of-23.

"Nobody shoots a free throw to miss," said Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.

Jackson overtook another wild game, a third straight overtime game that saw one team overcome a hole. Memphis was down 13 in the first minute of the fourth quarter and went on a 22-8 run to take 74-73 lead on a Tony Allen circus layup with less than four minutes to play.

Jackson even tried to stymie the run, Allen’s three-point play cut the lead to seven and Jackson drove to the rim like he owned it, exactly what Oklahoma City needs — even when Durant and Westbrook aren’t shooting in the 30s.

Jackson spoiled Gasol’s best game of the series, a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds on 10-of-21 shooting.

"He was very aggressive and made some shots and got going," said Memphis coach Dave Joerger of Jackson. "My hat’s off to him. He did a great job of being in attack mode, not settling and really trying to get to the rim."

Trading Harden, the Sixth Man of the Year, in 2012 has proved a not-bad decision. If not, hindsight is 20-20 anyway. But foresight?

"Reggie’s one of the best finishers in the game. That includes all the players," said Brooks prior to Thursday’s game. "He has an amazing knack at making shots around the basket. It’s on me to find him more opportunities. But he’s going to get opportunities tonight."

Jackson had the game of his life and Russell still managed to steal his Thunder (No pun).

Brooks, Durant and Westbrook talk about the team sticking together. Saturday, Jackson stood out, only to be left out. He didn’t attend the postgame press conference. Durant and Westbrook did, Westbrook wearing attention-grabbing Dwayne Wayne glasses. The story became what Durant and Westbrook said about Reggie Jackson.

Even in Jackson’s glory, the continued shooting struggles of Durant and Westbrook will draw the headlines. They hit a combined 11-for-45 for 30 points, 2-for-13 from deep. They scored 60 in a Game 3 loss, but did so on 19-of-53 shooting. Durant was visibly frustrated throughout this game, too. Five minutes went by before he got a shot and when he did, it was weaving through three Grizzlies, who harassed him all night. He went to the bench during timeouts yelling more than once.

The all-stars did combine for 23 rebounds, but also 12 of Oklahoma City’s 21 turnovers, though Memphis only scored 15 points off them. The Thunder scored 15 off 14 Grizzlies turnovers.

Maybe Reggie didn’t want to attend the press conference. Maybe he doesn’t want any glory. He does come off nicer than Westbrook. But he put a dagger in the heart of Joerger on the night of Joerger’s 12th wedding anniversary.