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Clippings: Reggie Jackson’s dunk over the MVP punctuated an improbable win

These moments have a way of mattering beyond the game itself.

Denver Nuggets v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Back in November, Reggie Jackson hit a game-clinching floater against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That shot, and the hug from Paul George, changed his rhythm as the Clippers embarked on a seven-game winning streak.

In the midst of another regular-season lull, Jackson had a moment in LA’s win over Denver Monday night that could shake up his season again. At the very least, it provided the energy the Clippers needed to complete a 25-point comeback and close out the Nuggets.

The Clippers starting point guard had begun the game shooting 1-of-9 from the field, and making some truly strange decisions on the offensive end in the process. The box score plus-minuses of Jackson and Eric Bledsoe, who finished the game plus-28, told a clear story of who was impacting the team’s success.

But Jackson just needed one shot to go in. And once he hit a fadeaway in the paint to the tie the game at 71, the first tie since the second quarter, he said he felt the lid come off the basket. He hit two more jumpers on the next two possessions to give the Clippers their first lead of the second half, and then his dunk on Nikola Jokic blew the roof off the building.

“We know it. We knew as a team, he just needs one shot to get going. Just to *snaps* get up, get a fire and that’s exactly what happened,” Nicolas Batum said about Jackson. “He made one shot and then boom. Then made a big three, then after a timeout, I don’t think that was the play, but he made the big dunk on Jokic. That was good. That was a big momentum to us.”

The Clippers made it a point of emphasis down the stretch to attack Jokic and involve the reigning MVP as much as possible on defense, the weaker part of his game. After settling for jumpers and being indecisive on offense for most of the first half, that change was apparent late in the contest.

The Clippers ran high screen-and-rolls with Jokic’s man as often as possible. On this occasion, it was Batum, and when Jokic didn’t come to the level fo the screen, Jackson blew by him for a ferocious slam. LA still trailed by one after the jam, but any momentum the Nuggets might have had was extinguished.

“That’s who Reggie is, going 1-for-9, went 4-for-6 (in the fourth) and making some big shots and attacking the basket, dunking at the end of that big dunk kind of propelled us, got guys hyped up, got us juiced up,” Ty Lue said.

The man affectionately dubbed “Big Government” needed that moment. Since he returned from health and safety protocols, Jackson had one good game against Brooklyn but otherwise has been a minus in the box score in six other contests — five of them double-digit minuses — and has only cracked 40 percent shooting once in that stretch.

The Clippers can’t win without Jackson giving them something; even in an excellent Bledsoe game, they still needed Jackson’s fourth quarter to seal the deal. The hope is that this win provides a springboard for another upswing in Jackson’s play. After all, the vibes in Crypto.com Arena are a lot friendlier when everyone is chanting “Reggie!”

“It helps you get the confidence in it, honestly, hoping yeah, this could be another start to shots going in,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen this story a lot of times. I feel like, ‘cause everyone else basically telling me they seen the story, like, we’ve seen you have some bad games and some bad moments, but normally you just stay confident and you find a way to push through, so, like I said, this isn’t me — this was this entire building, an entire organization, I was just the recipient of some shots going in. But this was everybody, putting that battery in my back and everybody giving me confidence today.”

More news for Wednesday:

  • Isaiah Hartenstein had his contract guaranteed for the season last week, and he looks to be much closer to returning after missing 12 games with an ankle injury.