Pistons’ Jackson eager to take on elite point guards

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Reggie Jackson got his chance to take center stage as a starting point guard after getting traded to the Pistons by Oklahoma City last winter.

Now, the 25-year-old Jackson is making the best of his opportunity — after three and a half years as a backup with the Thunder. He will be going up against the game’s elite point guards during the next week.

Jackson will face Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs at The Palace Tuesday, then host Stephen Curry and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors Saturday. Then there’s Derrick Rose when the Bulls come to town for an afternoon special on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday.

“I’m just looking forward to the next day and when I’m fortunate to wake up, I just want to be the best I can be each and every day,” said Jackson, downplaying the challenge at hand. “We’re starting to find our identity where we’re getting back to being a defensive team. Offensively, we’re getting some continuity, and we’re starting to finally get some easy transition baskets. We’re trying to kind of figure ourselves out. We’re still a young team and we’re trying to mature. It’s going to be about consistency each and every night.”

Jackson, who averages 19.9 points and 6.4 assists, takes pride in the Detroit defense and is looking forward to playing San Antonio, which is allowing a league-low 89.7 points. The Pistons, who have four starters age 26 or younger, are averaging 101.2 points.

Pistons facing tough stretch, starting with hot Spurs

“That’s the way we’ve been set up, to be lengthy and being able to move and be active and switch on a lot of pick-and-rolls and just throw a lot of coverages at you,” Jackson said. “That’s where we’re going to have to hang our hats. We’re getting better offensively, but we’ll be playing a great defensive team, as well as a great offensive team, what everybody sees as the premier offensive team in the league over the past few years, possibly the decade. We know it will be hard since they are an elite team, but we’re ready for the challenge.”

There’s no doubt Jackson stirs the drink for the Pistons. He is the catalyst and when he plays well, the Pistons usually win and when he doesn’t, well they don’t.

The Pistons are 13-7 in their last 20 games to rise to a sixth-place tie with Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings, just two games behind second-place Chicago and Toronto. Jackson is averaging 23.2 points and 7.4 assists during the victories, shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 44.6 percent (21-of-47) from 3-point range.

“I’m still young and I’m still figuring out this new role,” he said. “I have come in every night with the same focus and just be ready to attack downhill each and every game and each and every possession and take what the defense gives. I’m just trying to play with an aggressive mindset and I feel things are going well for me.”

So, what does Jackson consider his strength?

“Going downhill, that’s why they have me with the pick-and-roll system with Andre (center Drummond),” he said. “If we pick and roll very well, then everything else is set up off of that. I just have to continue to be aggressive and my teammates are doing a great job of shooting.

“We’ve been getting out a little bit better in transition. I know my game is really coming downhill and attacking all game and making plays not only for myself, but for my teammates.”

Jackson, who was limited to eight points on 4-of-20 shooting in an 87-83 loss at Brooklyn Nov. 29, came back to score 23 against the Nets Saturday in a 103-89 win at The Palace, making 10 of 17 shots, including 3-of-4 threes.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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