It’s been no secret that Lauri Markkanen has struggled mightily in the first 20 games of his third professional season. After bursting on to the scene in the opener against Charlotte, a game in which he finished with 35 points on 13-25 shooting and 17 rebounds, Markkanen appears to have lost his confidence and is severely underperforming.
As it stands, the Finnish big man currently averages career-lows with 13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, and a 35.7 shooting percentage while averaging 29 minutes. He’s had a monumental drop-off from his encouraging sophomore season, where he flashed star potential by averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 52 games.
However, in a victory on Monday night against the Sacramento Kings, Markkanen resembled the multi-dimensional stretch forward that we have become so accustomed to. The Arizona product finished with 20 points and seven rebounds while shooting 6-12 from the field and 4-8 from beyond the arc.
More importantly, Lauri Markkanen was actually looking for his shot and wasn’t as passive as he’s been throughout this season. He shot his threes with confidence, drove to the hoop with a purpose, and even took the ball coast to coast, which resulted in a tough-contact layup.
The Bulls ultimately won this game 113-106, ending their three-game losing skid.
Chicago finally realized mismatches for Markkanen in the post late in the game, which led to consecutive free throw attempts on back-to-back possessions. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this game is that the team plays more balanced and controlled when they can depend on Markkanen. Understandably, this was one game, but it could serve as a nice coming out party for the big fella.
If Jim Boylen and the Bulls can consistently find ways to get their two best players showcasing similar efforts to what we saw at Sacramento, then it may be able to galvanize the entire team and serve as a turning point in the season. Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen combined for 48 points on 13-25 shooting from the field and 9-15 from beyond the arc.
The Bulls have a favorable schedule at home over the next two games. They’ll face off against the Memphis Grizzlies (6-14)–without Ja Morant–on Wednesday and the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors (4-18) on Friday.
Come on, Bulls!
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