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Reggie Jackson keeps it loose before Game 5, then cuts loose in win

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, right, blocks a shot by Suns guard Devin Booker during Game 5 on Monday night in Phoenix.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Phoenix Suns fans were yelling, cursing and giving the middle finger to the cool and calm Reggie Jackson as he wiped his face. Jackson smiled at the unruly fans and offered them a thumbs-up and a shake of his head during the break in action with 4 minutes 17 seconds left in a game in which the Clippers had taken total control at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Jackson had been the perfect running mate for his best friend on the team, Paul George, the 6-foot-2 guard complementing the Clippers’ star forward in so many ways in the decisive fourth quarter of the Clippers’ Game 5 victory in the Western Conference finals Monday night.

Before Jackson had come up big with eight much-needed points in the fourth, and before he finished another stellar game with 23 points, he had been talking trash during the shoot-around.

It was his way of letting teammates know he was going to be ready for the challenge ahead of them that night. It was his way of trying to bring some levity to his teammates when they got more bad news that another teammate, center Ivica Zubac, was out because of a sprained right knee ligament.

When Clippers coach Tyronn Lue was asked about Jackson after the win, he chuckled and smiled before answering.

“Reggie, man, he’s been phenomenal for us all season long,” Lue said. “He loves these moments. He was talking trash all day today — at shoot-around, before the game, after the game. Just keeping the guys’ spirits up.”

The Clippers’ win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals proved that they are resilient and can pull this off.

The Clippers had started to wobble in the fourth, their 13-point lead early in the quarter whittled to 98-94.

Up stepped Jackson into the void once again, unafraid of the moment and willing to carry the load for a while.

His three-pointer pushed the Clippers’ lead to 101-94.

After George scored two of his playoff career-high 41 points, Jackson struck again.

He drilled another three-pointer and moments later dribbled the length of the court for a thunderous dunk that gave the Clippers a 12-point lead and had his teammates on the bench jumping out of their seats.

“Our guys are in a good place already, but him being so free. … He loves these types of moments to be able to play on a big stage,” Lue said. “Backs are against the wall and he performs every single time.

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Video highlights from the Clippers’ 116-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on June 28, 2021.

“He’s had a great year. I’m just happy for him to finally get his opportunity. Playing well even throughout the postseason and finally showing guys who he is as a player. So it was good to see.”

Jackson completed his night with an efficient eight-for-14 shooting from the field. He was four of seven from three-point range in 38:11. He had five rebounds, three assists and was a plus-21 in the plus-minus category.

He went into Game 5 averaging 21.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the series while shooting 45.3% from the field and 33.3% from deep.

Perhaps most importantly Monday, Jackson stood tall when the game mattered the most, going three of five from the field in the fourth and two for three from three-point range.

Jackson did his part to help the Clippers stave off elimination and trim their series deficit to 3-2..

So, during that timeout, Jackson relished the moment, taking in all the fans had to say, knowing that the Clippers will play Game 6 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

“Keep saying it, Reg is one of the most positive people,” George said. “He just keeps everything light. And that’s what you need in these moments.”

Clippers-Suns finals schedule
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)


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