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SALT LAKE CITY — By halftime on Wednesday, Lauri Markkanen had 15 points on only six shots.
"Yeah, pretty efficient," teammate Kelly Olynyk said.
That's putting it lightly.
Markkanen is 31st in the NBA in points scored this season, but just 53rd in field goal attempts. And while most high level scorers get their efficiency up with multiple opportunities at the free-throw line, Markkanen has only averaged 4.3 points per game from the charity stripe.
He's just making a whole lot of shots. So, obviously, he shot a ton in the second half on Wednesday then, right? Not exactly. Markkanen had just one field goal attempt in the third quarter in Wednesday's win over the LA Clippers. He finished with 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Should he be shooting more?
"He's a really good player, very versatile, but I really do think that there are moments of the game where it feels like we forget that he has 30 points," Jazz coach Will Hardy said after Monday's game when Markkanen had 24 points on 10 first-half shots. "I love when we move the ball around. I love that everybody is aggressive. But I do think there's moments where we can recognize the hot hand a little bit better."
One of the best things about Markkanen is that he doesn't demand the ball to have a good night. He's so good moving off the ball that it's not necessary to actually call plays for him. He just plays within the set, and if the ball finds him for an open look, he'll shoot. If not, he's fine with that, too. The Jazz's offense is an equal opportunity system, and that's fit his game perfectly.
"I think we are playing our style of basketball," he said. "We were getting good looks, and it doesn't really matter who's shooting as long as it goes in and we are getting good looks."
Markkanen scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first four minutes of Wednesday's game. Yet, he had just one shot attempt the rest of the half. So what changed? His teammates feel those types of flurries just open up everything for everyone else.
Jordan Clarkson had 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half against the Clippers — all of that came following Markkanen's scorching start.
"He's been unreal for us this year," Olynyk said of Markkanen. "But he's scored in so many different ways, puts pressure on defense and has created open shots for others. He opened up Jordan for a lot of what he got just because you have to pay so much attention to him and his movement, and you know what he's doing out there."
So when Markkanen has it going, the Jazz want to find him and want him to shoot. Sometimes, though, that's easier said than done. Defenses react and the better play is often to take advantage of the pressure he has created to get other players open looks.
"It kind of goes hand in hand, but he can get going in a hurry, and we need that," Olynyk said.
So should Markkanen be shooting more? He definitely could, but he doesn't have to. That's what's made him so efficient this season.
"Every time I check in, I try to be aggressive and try to find find the looks but sometimes ... it's kind of seeing what the game gives you," Markkanen said.