Reggie Jackson's Game 4 Heroics May Have Salvaged Thunder's Season

Jared PorterCorrespondent IIApril 27, 2014

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson is congratulated after making a free throw in the final seconds of overtime in Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. Jackson scored 32 points as Oklahoma City won 92-89. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey

In a playoff game where Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combine for 30 points on just 11-of-45 shooting, one would think the Oklahoma City Thunder would have a polar bear's shot in hell at surviving. But behind a gutty performance from an unlikely hero, the Thunder won a pivotal Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday to even the series at two games apiece. 

Thank you, Reggie Jackson

With 1:20 left in the fourth quarter, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol hit one of his patented toe-jumpers to put his team up five. At that point, it all seemed to become real to Thunder fans. Deja vu of the two previous heartbreaking losses set in, and there wasn't any reason to believe this game would turn out any differently. Hope and optimism began to vanish from Thunder Nation like a fart in the wind.

But in the blink of an eye, the tides finally turned in favor of the desperate Thunder team. 

Reggie Jackson took over Game 4 for the Oklahoma City Thunder to even their series with the Grizzlies, 2-2.
Reggie Jackson took over Game 4 for the Oklahoma City Thunder to even their series with the Grizzlies, 2-2.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

With under a minute to go, the Thunder offense—which had been annoyingly stagnant for much of the game—was on the verge of committing a shot-clock violation. With no other option, Jackson hoisted up a contested fadeaway three that somehow found the bottom of the net. 

Thank you, Reggie Jackson. 

After a Durant steal on the Grizzlies' following possession, the Thunder had an opportunity to tie the game. Normally, this would be Durant's time to shine, but he had been struggling mightily with his shot the entire game. So Jackson decided to take matters into his own hands. 

The nimble-footed Jackson took advantage of an Ibaka screen at the top of the key, which helped him elude the defense of Mike Conley. And after three quick steps toward the hoop, he released a heavenly floater from the foul line.

Swish. Tie game with 30 seconds to go in regulation. 

Thank you, Reggie Jackson. 

The ensuing Grizzlies possession led to a missed Gasol jumper from 15 feet. Tony Allen then ripped away a rebound from Westbrook underneath the basket but was blocked on the putback by Serge Ibaka. The ball found its way intoguess whoJackson's hands with four seconds left on the clock. But with no timeouts, Jackson panicked and threw up an ill-advised full-court airball. 

For the third straight game, the Thunder and Grizzlies went into overtime. 

With an opportunity to rid some demons, the Thunder put an end to the Grizzlies' streak of three straight OT victories against them. The last time the Thunder beat the Grizzlies in OT was in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals. However, that game took threee overtime periods to decide the Thunder as victors. It was the game that changed momentum in that playoff series, much like what we may be seeing right now. 

Oh yeah, and Jackson scored two baskets and hit four clutch free throws to help the Thunder prevail in Saturday night's OT victory. He ended the game with 32 points and nine rebounds. 

Thank you, Reggie Jackson. 

All things considered, the Thunder are extremely fortunate to have the series tied through four games. Except for Game 1, the Thunder's offense hasn't clicked, which has resulted in the Thunder having to dig themselves out of holes, game after game. 

Still, the argument could be made that if a few more things went right for the Thunder in the past three games, they could easily have a 3-1 series leador could have even won the series by now. 

Either way, the Thunder have not played to their potential. Durant and Westbrook have shot extremely poorly by their standards, and before last night the Thunder bench had been outplayed by Memphis' reserves. 

The main thing to take away from last night's victory—and really, the entire series—was the Thunder's will to never give up. There have been multiple times in this series where the Thunder could have folded, but they have consistently battled until the final buzzer in each game. 

And since it's inconceivable to believe that Durant and Westbrook will continue their struggles offensively for much longer, you have to think that the current situation favors the Thunder. 

It's now a three-game series, with two of the remaining games to be played in Oklahoma City. Last night's win was crucial, but the Thunder still have to take care of business in order for this series to not end disastrously. 

Durant embraces Jackson for his late heroics in Game 4 series against Grizzlies.
Durant embraces Jackson for his late heroics in Game 4 series against Grizzlies.Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

With all of the things that have gone wrong for the Thunder in this series, they're still in good position to right the ship. And hey, at least we now know that it's actually possible for the Thunder to win games when Durant and Westbrook play poorly. 

Still, it'd be nice for the Thunder to play the way they're known for. In the meantime, Thunder Nation can give Jackson a Durant-like bear hug for his heroics in Game 4. His gutsy, emotional performance on Saturday night saved the Thunder's season for the time being. 

So Thunder Nation, let's take the opportunity to all say it together:

"Thank you, Reggie Jackson."


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