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Analysis: Why the Jazz came up just short in their loss to the Mavericks

Utah experienced a few growing pains in its 103-100 loss to Dallas on Wednesday night.

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Utah Jazz point guard Jordan Clarkson, left, looks to shoot against Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Dallas.

Gareth Patterson, AP

DALLAS — The Utah Jazz had a chance at the end on Wednesday to tie things up with a 3 and send the game into overtime, but a Jordan Clarkson shot from the corner came up short and the Dallas Mavericks won, 103-100.

The Jazz fell to 6-3 on the season and will head to Los Angeles where they’ll play the Lakers on Friday and the Clippers on Sunday.

The final play

With 3.1 seconds left the Jazz called timeout and drew up a play to try to get a 3-pointer that would tie the game. In the action the Jazz ran there were a few options available to them. 

Collin Sexton started off in the back court, maybe as a diversion for a defender to open up the floor a little bit. But he could have been a safe option had he not slipped when the play started. Clarkson criss-crossed with Mike Conley, curled toward the ball and forced a switch by Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber in the paint. When Clarkson emerged he would be open for the inbound pass.

A third option was Conley, curling around and basically ending up right where he’d started, with Malik Beasley screening his own man to give Conley space for an open shot. 

Lauri Markkanen inbounded the ball on the three-second count to Clarkson, who continued his momentum toward the right corner for a turn-around shot that ended up needing to go over the out-stretched arms of Kleber.

Is that the best shot? Probably not. If Markannen had waited just a beat longer he’d been able to get the ball into Conley for a much better look. But, it’s a little hard to be mad at anything that happened here.

“Honestly, I felt like I was coming out open on the back action,” Conley said. “The first option was obviously if J.C. sprung free. But the second part was for me to come up, Malik to screen his own man, and we kind of lost them. I thought we had a chance there, but we made the play we did and and we trust whoever gets the ball to make the shot.”

Without any timeouts, Markkanen was at the mercy of the five-seconds allowed to throw the ball in, and when Clarkson gets in front of him and looks totally open, it’s hard to not make that pass, especially considering that Clarkson was 4-of-9 from 3 on the night.

“I was trying to get the ball to the open guy and obviously we had great shooters on the floor, so ran to play we drew and it was time to get the ball in,” Markkanen said. “J.C. hit a lot of 3s today so I was trying to get him the ball. It didn’t go in this time.”

If he’d waited he could have found Conley, but that’s only obvious in rewatching the play. In the moment he was just trying to get the ball in so they didn’t turn it over. This isn’t a team that is totally familiar with how well they run plays and get open on end-of-game plays, so he almost has to go with the first available option.

“The play had a bunch of actions for multiple people to get a shot, see what we got open,”k Clarkson said. “Ball came to me in the corner with Kleber closing out. It’s a tough shot, deep corner, but, you know, we had a chance.”

Attacking Dallas’ zone

For the first time this season the Jazz dealt with playing against a zone defense. Dallas was a little sneaky about it, playing man-to-man and then not really telegraphing that they were switching into zone.

With how much motion-based offense the Jazz run, it requires a bit more maneuvering and forcing guys out of position in order to beat the zone and in trying to work their way through that the Jazz ended up really, really slowing down on the offensive end.

After the Jazz scored 35 points in the first quarter, the Mavericks switched things up and the Jazz scored just 15 points in the second quarter and went 0-of-7 from 3-point range.

“They do a good job of disguising it and kind of slowing you down, and we were we’re doing a lot of good things in man — getting up and down and being able to do we want to do,” Conley said. “It was making us play slow, making us a little bit more hesitant on when to shoot, when not to. We were trying to find out where the gaps were in the zone and for that little portion, I think that kind of just threw us off a little bit.”

Jazz head coach Will Hardy said that the Jazz have practiced playing against a zone a little bit, but I think it’s important to remember that this Jazz team has not been together for very long and we’re only nine games into the 82-game season.

The Jazz are going to come up against a lot of different kinds of coverage and a lot of different offenses and there are likely to be growing pains. It’s all to be expected.