It wasn’t all that long ago Reggie Jackson was toiling in obscurity with the Pistons. Jackson played in Detroit from 2015-20, posting decent but mostly empty numbers for a team that, at best, served as a first-round warmup for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Jackson’s time in the Motor City ended when the franchisewith the veteran guard in February 2020. He joined the Clippers soon after leaving the Pistons, but he didn’t receive consistent minutes with Los Angeles and was reduced to garbage time as the squad blew a 3-1 lead against the Nuggets in the Florida “bubble.”
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Under first-year coach Tyronn Lue, though, Jackson’s points have been anything but empty. The 31-year-old has been a major contributor throughout LA’s playoff run, including in the Clippers’ 106-92 win over the Suns on Thursday night, which prevented them from falling into a 3-0 hole in the Western Conference finals.
Jackson scored 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting and hit key shots to keep Phoenix at arm’s length. When the Suns cut the Clippers’ lead to six with seven minutes left in the final frame, Jackson responded by finishing a tough layup and drilling a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions. He scored 10 of his team’s last 17 points.
This latest performance just continued what has been an electric stretch for Jackson. Entering Thursday’s contest, Jackson was averaging 17.3 points, 3.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 15 playoff games while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from 3-point range. He has been a reliable offensive option next to his close friend Paul George with Kawhi Leonard sidelined and has earned the confidence of his coaches and teammates.
“They’ve empowered me. Honestly, this team has empowered me. This organization has empowered me since the time I’ve been here,” Jackson said after Game 3. “From playing early, not playing, having DNPs, roles changing throughout the year . . . It was really our leaders. Kawhi, Paul, Pat [Beverley], and then collectively everybody, coaches — they were just on me about being aggressive. Stay aggressive, stay aggressive.
“Throughout my career, trying to always make the right play, not necessarily just being myself and coming out and playing the game makes it a little difficult. But the more I just continue to be myself, the more that this team empowered me to be myself, I’ve been able to find success, fortunately, been able to stay healthy.”
Lue always had a high opinion of Jackson, even before he broke out on the postseason stage. Lue told reporters that he viewed Jackson as a potential starter coming into the 2020-21 season because of his fit alongside Leonard and George, and Jackson took full advantage when his number was called.
“He did a great job, and our numbers with him as a starter were off the charts, with Pat as well. But offensively, we really took off,” Lue said. “He’s been great. As soon as he stepped into that role, he made it easier for PG, made it easier for Kawhi. We’ve really started playing great offense, having a great offense, and just never stopped from there. Just happy for him, he’s had a heck of a year.”
Once a guy who landed in the good stats-bad team category, Jackson has emerged as a valuable piece of a real championship contender. Lue and the Clippers gave Jackson an opportunity, and he has been rewarding that trust ever since.