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Analysis: Jordan Clarkson’s ability to draw fouls from 3-point land and Lauri Markkanen’s off-ball work

The Jazz finally managed to beat a team wire-to-wire with a 126-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

SHARE Analysis: Jordan Clarkson’s ability to draw fouls from 3-point land and Lauri Markkanen’s off-ball work
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Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) drives on Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) as the Jazz and the Clippers play at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

After so many close games and so many nights of playing down to the very last second in games that could be decided by the last shot, the Jazz finally managed to beat a team wire-to-wire with a 126-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

The Jazz were able to rest their starters for the final few minutes thanks to 34 points from Lauri Markkanen and a wildly impressive shooting night from the entire roster (59.4% from 3-point range.

Were the Clippers missing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the second night of a back-to-back? Yes, but the Jazz still played a really great game.

“The Clippers were undermanned tonight, but I don’t think that takes anything away from what our team did,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “There’s always going to be situations in games where teams are missing people and we’ve been in that situation ourselves.

“... I thought that our team’s focus through the entire game and being able to refocus after the Clippers would go on little runs, that was the reason why we were able to come out with a win tonight.”

But let’s dig into to a couple more specific things.

Jordan Clarkson drawing 3-point fouls

On Wednesday night, Jordan Clarkson did this:

And it’s something that he’s done a lot this year.

Drawing a foul on a 3-point shot is one of the most analytically perfect plays in basketball. James Harden became an absolute master at the art of drawing a foul on 3-point shots to the point that multiple think pieces were written about his ability to do so.

It’s even harder to draw those fouls nowadays because the league has increased the penalties for being in someone’s landing space. As shown in the video above, if a players is deemed to “recklessly closeout” and ends up in the landing space of a jump shooter, it results in not only a shooting foul, but a flagrant 1 foul, giving possession to the team that was fouled after the free throw shots are taken.

That means that players are trying their best to not be in those positions. Similarly, there are now penalties for players who kick their legs out in order to create contact on their shot attempt in these situations. The point is that it’s hard to make this happen correctly and with regularity.

Clarkson has been incredible at drawing these fouls this season. In fact, according to data from Synergy Sports, Clarkson’s 24 fouls drawn on 3-point shots leads the league. It’s more than Harden’s 18, and it’s more than Stephen Curry and Jayson Tatum have (21 each).

Heading into Wednesday’s game, Clarkson was drawing fouls on 3-point shots on 6% of his 3-point attempts. Considering that he’s shooting upwards of 37% from deep that makes his shots from long-range even more valuable.

Lauri Markkanen off the ball

Markkanen is clearly the Jazz’s best player and as he has emerged as the best player on the team, the Jazz have been more intentional about getting the ball into his hands and running plays designed for him.

There are a lot of things that make Markkanen a unique player — his size, versatility, ability to handle the ball, his shooting efficiency and his ability to guard multiple positions — but what makes him particularly unique for someone that can easily score 34 points on 11 made field goals in a game, is what he does when he does not have the ball.

“He’s so unselfish,” Hardy said. “I mean, there’s a bunch of plays in tonight’s game where he is the focal point of the action from our standpoint, and the Clippers did a really good job of sort of trying to take him out of it, and he finds ways to sacrifice for his teammates — as a screener, as a cutter — and helps his teammates get good shots. So, there’s more plays than you think that are involving Lauri. But his unselfishness continues to stand out to me and the rest of our staff.”

Markkanen has spent the majority of his time in the NBA as something other than the No. 1 option, and he’s still getting used to what it means to be the guy who has the ability to take over a game for his team. But the silver lining in that is Markkanen is incredible playing off the ball and knows how to make the rest of the team successful, even when he’s not the one taking the shot.