Considering the way the NBA season started for Clippers veteran guard Reggie Jackson, just making a shot or two felt like a major win. In the team’s first six games, Jackson shot 31.0% from the field and 29.1% from the 3-point line. He averaged 14.2 points, but because those points came so inefficiently, he was almost surprised as things began to turn around.
“It was surreal,” Jackson said this week. “Surreal and crazy, to see the ball going through the basket. But I was like, ‘Oh, snap, is that me who made that? Did that actually go in? OK.’ My teammates keep finding me for shot, to be the recipient of great offense of us moving the ball. To have some shots going in felt good.”
Very good lately, in fact. After that slog to start the year, Jackson has come on during the Clippers last two games, back-to-back wins over the Timberwolves on the road. He scored 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting on Wednesday, and followed that up on Friday with 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting.
In just two games, Jackson raised his shooting percentage by 6.1 percentage points. He’s been a big factor in the Clippers getting back to .500 with three straight wins. He did admit, though, that the slump was getting to him.
“You go through lulls where you start questioning after a while,” Jackson said. “Just gotta keep putting in the work and trust. Hopefully, it will carry over, for all of us.”
Clippers’ Shooting Surge Eases Pressure on Paul George
One of the benefits of Jackson’s re-emergence has been taking pressure off Clippers star Paul George, who has been having an MVP-caliber season as he tries to make up for the absence of star forward Kawhi Leonard, who is rehabbing from surgery to repair his ACL.
George is averaging a career-high 27.9 points, which ranks second in the NBA, but the team was able to withstand a poor night from their star on Friday in the win over Minnesota (George shot 4-for-20 from the field) because the rest of the team shot 47.1%.
“For us to kinda take the lid off the basket felt good, especially the way Paul’s been shooting, he’s been carrying us, the way Luke’s (Kennard) been shooting,” Jackson said. “We want to add to that, we want to help those guys so they don’t feel like too much of a burden.”
Jackson Got a Major Free-Agent Raise in the Offseason
Jackson has a lot to live up to, having played well down the stretch last season and into the playoffs, when he averaged 17.8 points on 48.4% shooting and 40.4% 3-point shooting as the Clippers made their first-ever trip to the Western Conference finals.
Jackson, who was on a minimum deal last season, worth $2.3 million, got a two-year, $21.5 million contract in the offseason. He is expected to play a big role in keeping the Clippers afloat this year until Leonard can return—if, indeed, he does return at all.
The 1-4 start was not a good sign, but the Clippers are hopeful that their recent surge is more indicative of where this team can go.
“When we were 1-4 in the locker room, I don’t feel like we were beating ourselves up too much,” Jackson said. “We felt like we had some games we let go—defensive rebounding, turnovers, whatever the mistakes may be. We felt like we had some things we could correct. You never want to be 1-4. It wasn’t time to panic, but it was definitely time to fix things quickly and keep the foot on the gas. … I feel like we are turning it around, figuring it out.”