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‘Got some tips for me?’ Justin Jackson finding his way in up-and-down rookie season

Kings rookie Justin Jackson on training camp and working with Vince Carter

"I'm having a blast," he says. "I was in a shooting drill with Vince Carter. Not a lot of people can say that."
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"I'm having a blast," he says. "I was in a shooting drill with Vince Carter. Not a lot of people can say that."

Prior to tipoff, Kings rookie Justin Jackson put out a distress signal of sorts.

He knew he’d have to guard Golden State superstar Kevin Durant, one of the best scorers in NBA history, and that he’d need all the help available.

“I was asking few guys, ‘You got some tips for me?’ before the game,” Jackson said. “And for him, you just try to make it as hard as possible and obviously he hit some huge shots, he’s a Hall of Famer. So just try to make it as hard as possible, that’s all you really can do against guys like that.”

Durant did what he does to most teams – score, a lot – finishing with a game-high 33 points in Golden State’s 119-104 victory Friday night at Golden 1 Center.

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Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) raises his hand after he scored a basket against the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com

Durant made 6 of 7 from 3-point range for the Warriors (41-11). Zach Randolph led the Kings (16-35) with 18 points.

Jackson had 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, his latest strong effort as he seems to be finding his way in an up-and-down first season. He began as a starter before falling out of the rotation and spending time in the G League.

In his last five games, Jackson is shooting 58.3 percent and looks more comfortable with his shot.

It’s hard for any team to succeed without an offensive threat at small forward, and Jackson is showing signs he can be one.

“I’ve never been a guy that really forces shots,” Jackson said. “Usually I’ve been pretty good about choosing which shots to shoot, which shots not to shoot and that’s just kind of how I’ve always been.

“Just now being in the NBA, obviously you don’t get the ball every possession, it just is what it is. So it’s just trying to pick and choose those times where I can really be aggressive and whatever else I need to do at other times.”

Kings coach Dave Joerger praised Jackson last summer for his ability to find shots without a play being called for him. That’s what Jackson has done lately.

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Sacramento Kings forward Justin Jackson (25) goes to the basket against the Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento Cali. on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com

“He got eight (points) early just standing around with the ball being moved,” Joerger said. “We were in attack mode, the ball finds guys, I think when you play with the pass. He was the beneficiary of some of those tonight and I thought he stepped up and knocked them down.”

Friday was the 10th game Jackson has started this season. The 34 minutes he played were a season high. Both are reasons Jackson is feeling better about his play lately.

It was the second time in three games Jackson has played at least 30 minutes.

“It’s a credit to the coaches for giving me a little more time out there,” Jackson said. “It’s just easier to get in a flow and get more comfortable.”

Jackson has looked better on defense lately, too. But Friday was no easy task to stop Durant and the Warriors’ litany of offensive weapons.

“As he gets more comfortable in his role, when to just move it on and when to just let somebody else make a play, because a lot of times you’re going to be the guy who comes back and gets it,” Joerger said. “I thought he was solid defensively and I think it’s a good learning experience for him tonight.”

Jackson made strides on the Kings’ recent six-game road trip, much like fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox did.

“His confidence has been up, he’s been playing a lot, he’s making shots – something that we know he can do,” Fox said. “He’s been in the starting lineup. He’s been defending as well – that’s one thing that I feel like he’s been underrated for. He makes his floaters, he’s making his jumpers and you’ll see him playing with a lot of excitement and a lot of confidence.”

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Sacramento Kings forward Justin Jackson (25) defends the Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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