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Film Study: Breaking down Markelle Fultz’s game against the Clippers

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What was clicking for the second-year guard?

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Philadelphia 76ers closed out an up-and-down 122-113 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, headlined by star center Joel Embiid’s 41-point, 13-rebound, 4-block outing.

For some, though, Embiid’s dominant performance won’t be the main talking point. Instead, it might be the play of Markelle Fultz, who racked up 12 points (5-of-10 shooting, 0 of 0 from deep, 2 of 3 from the foul line), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal in 21 minutes of burn.

Against the Clippers, Fultz turned in arguably his best game of the young season. He made impact plays defensively and put pressure on ball-handlers at the point of attack, refusing to die on screens — a troubling habit he has developed during his brief NBA career.

On offense, he slithered his way to the tin, confidently blitzed the opposition in transition, and seemed to have a course of action each time he drove the lane. He largely avoided those awkward, pivot-happy sequences or errant kickouts to the perimeter, which tend to occur when a big man greets him in the paint.

All of that activity bred a team-high plus-minus of plus-16, comfortably surpassing his previous 2018-19 best of plus-5. Plus-minus can be noisy and is generally reliant on the surrounding personnel in a given unit, but there’s no question Fultz overwhelmingly made positive contributions. In fact, nobody had a better on-off net rating split than Fultz on Thursday.

When he entered the game with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter, the Sixers were on the wrong end of a 29-8 run spanning back before the half (it’d eventually peak at 32-8) and trailed 81-80. When he checked out with 5:33 to go in the final period, Philadelphia was leading 106-103. Fultz was the primary catalyst of that four-point swing, scoring or assisting on 18 of the 26 points scored over that time.

While sprinkling in a couple of 3-pointers would have been the perfect cap to a promising game, this was a glimpse into the type of impact Fultz can make in the interim as he continues to refine his jumper.

Long term, Philadelphia still needs him to become a shooter for it to approach its ceiling. But for a team whose stated goal is to make the NBA Finals this year, it was an encouraging, win-now showing from a franchise cornerstone.

*For additional video breakdown of Fultz’s night, check out my Twitter Moment.*