With the Clippers on the brink of playoff elimination, down 3-1 to the Phoenix Suns in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals, it goes without saying that L.A. will be pulling out all the stops for Game 5 Monday night in Phoenix.
Whether that means coach Ty Lue will roll with a tight rotation of eight players, as he did in Game 4, or with a broader selection of 10, as he did in Game 1, remains to be seen.
One thing, however, is for certain: Reggie Jackson will see significant minutes and get plenty of opportunities to shoot the rock. A right he’s more than earned.
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Jackson Joins Two of the Greatest Shooters Ever
In 17 playoff games this season, 15 of them starting, Jackson is averaging 17.8 points and 3.2 assists while shooting 48.7% overall and 40.6% from three. He’s been particularly lethal in the third and fourth quarters — currently 7th amongst all playoff players in second-half points with 163 (Paul George is 2nd with 215), and Jackson is tied for 7th with Suns guard Devin Booker in total second-half assists with 34.
But perhaps most impressive, this postseason Jackson has joined the ranks of two of the greatest shooters of all time.
According to ESPN’s Stats & Information department, Jackson is only the 3rd player in NBA history to make three or more 3-pointers in 14 games during a single postseason. The other two guys: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. (Curry did it four times, 2015-17 and 2019, while the oft-injured Thompson did it just once, in 2016.)
It’s a feat that speaks not only to his consistency but Jackson’s trust in himself, something that was severely lagging during this past offseason.
Still dealing with lingering injuries to his back, ankle and leg, and unable to shake the disappointment following L.A.’s monumental collapse against Denver inside the Orlando playoff bubble, Jackson contemplated retirement before the start of this season.
“I was ready to leave. I was ready to give up,” Jackson said. “I thought I was going to retire because I just couldn’t get healthy.” Lacking motivation to rehab, Jackson began to think his time had come and gone.
“It just started weighing on me,” Jackson said. “I just felt like maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”
But with the encouragement of his good friend Paul George, a former teammate in Oklahoma City and one of the main drivers behind Jackson coming to the Clippers after six seasons in Detroit, as well as some well-needed time away from the court as recommended by his brother Travis, Jackson soon began to feel better about his health and his ability to contribute.
‘Without Them, This Doesn’t Happen’
Though Jackson’s career resuscitation led him to have a better-than-expected regular season, averaging 10.7. points in 23.0 minutes while shooting a career-best 43.3% from three, it was nevertheless unknown how much time he would get once the playoffs rolled around.
With Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka finally healthy after injury-filled seasons, and given Jackson’s past struggles defensively, many thought that the natural tightening of postseason rotations might make Jackson an odd man out.
That thinking was amplified following Jackson’s poor showing in the Clippers’ playoff opener against Dallas when he posted just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench. It was expected that Jackson would recede down the bench.
But Beverley, against Dallas, was having his own struggles, unable to stay out of foul trouble while trying to contain superstar point guard Luka Doncic. So for Game 3, with the Clippers having lost the first two games of the series, Lue inserted Jackson into the starting lineup, a decision that paid dividends immediately.
Jackson posted 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the floor and 4-for-10 from three, adding four assists and three rebounds to help give the Clippers their first win of the postseason and give Clipper Nation a taste of things to come.
Jackson, who will be a free agent this offseason and expects to garner a large payday off the strength of this postseason run, credits his teammates and the Clippers organization as a whole for giving him the confidence to be himself.
“Honestly this team has empowered me and this organization has empowered me since I’ve been here, from playing early, roles changing throughout the year,” Jackson told reporters following his 23-point performance in Game 3 against Phoenix, the Clippers only win so far in the series. Jackson scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to help stave off a big comeback by Phoenix.
“Hats off to them,” Jackson said. “I definitely tried to put a lot of work in my career to be ready for those moments…but you’re only as great as your team wants to be. Hats off to them, they have been pushing me to be my best and I’ve been fortunate to be playing well. Without them, this doesn’t happen.”