UNC Alumni in the NBA: Justin Jackson drops career-high on Warriors

Former Tar Heel scores career-high, but can’t lift Kings to victory over Warriors

Sacramento Kings reserve wing Justin Jackson came into Saturday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors having scored just 25 points in his previous five games combined.

He topped that number in less than 40 minutes at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California in front of a sold out crowd hungry to see the defending champions fall. And despite coming out on the losing end, the pro-Kings crowd got every penny of their money’s worth in a game that saw 250 total points scored and an NBA record 41 made three-pointers between the two teams.

The Kings, led by Jackson and former first round draft pick Buddy Hield, put on their best offensive performance of the season in the thrilling 127-123 prime time loss. Jackson and Hield combined to hit 13 of the Kings’ 20 three-pointers, and shot nearly 63 percent from the floor.

Jackson, whose previous career-high point total of 22 was set in an early November game against the Milwaukee Bucks, put on the best offensive display that we’ve seen from him since his NBA debut in 2017.

The former Tar Heel and consensus first team All-American notched a career-best 28 points on an outstanding 10-of-14 shooting. He knocked down 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc, and connected on all three of his free throw attempts. He also grabbed five rebounds, an assist and a steal — and committed just one turnover — in 34 minutes of play.

Late in the game with the Kings down 117-116, Jackson hit a huge three-pointer to give Sacramento a brief two-point lead. The Kings soon relinquished the lead thanks to a Curry three-pointer on the other end of the court. The purple-clad capacity crowd left satisfied, though, watching their team push the reigning NBA champs to the brink, and witnessing what they hope is the emergence of one of its young stars.

After scoring double-digit points just seven times in the Kings’ first 29 games, Jackson has notched double-figures in four of the team’s past 10 contests. In doing so, he’s raised his scoring average to 7.2 points per game, surpassing the mark he set a season ago. Jackson is also averaging more rebounds and more assists per game in fewer starts and minutes.

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