If you’ve followed my Twitter account for any period of time, you know I’m a Lauri Markkanen guy. I wrote a piece recently about the forecast being good on “Lauri Island” and I absolutely believe in his potential as a player. Last night, he had a magnificent three quarters, scoring 30 points, and looking every bit like the player we knew he could be when the Bulls traded for his rights on draft night. The fourth quarter was mildly disappointing, but forgivable, since the Bulls got extremely tight and abandoned every aspect of their offense that had worked all night against the Knicks.
We’ve seen flashes of this before. In the 2018-2019 season, Markkanen had back-to-back 30 point games in February 2019 in the early stages of the Jim Boylen era. This was before Boylen modified his offense to basically exclude Lauri Markkanen and the only 30 point game he had last year was game number one against Charlotte. But this year is very different. Lauri Markkanen didn’t just have back-to-back 30 point games, he shot 60%+ and 50%+ from three in both games. It was a combination of inside and outside brilliance, the product of the Bulls playing as a team (91.3% of his field goals were assisted), and the Bulls offense being multi-layered and deep. This team has evolved beyond Markkanen and/or LaVine dropping 20-30 points per game and hoping they win. The Bulls had 6 players in double figures last night. Thaddeus Young was brilliant with a near triple-double, Gafford was playing clean-up and made an impact, Coby had his moments, and LaVine still added 21 plus hit the big three to seal the game late. But Markkanen was their fuel last night and the other Bulls played off his hot-hand. They all played within the flow of the offense.
This isn’t an isolated incident for Markkanen. He has been fantastic this season: 20.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 51.8% FG, and 41.3% from 3 (would be a career-high…by far). He’s turning into a legitimate scoring option and a threat to score 30+ on any given night.
The Bulls are evolving and are escaping the basement of the NBA where teams are perennially trapped in the lottery or condemned to being on the cusp of the playoffs only to fall short. The Bulls are more than that. Their record doesn’t reflect it, but there are moments when you see it and when the smoke clears and the dust settles, I think they’ll be in the playoff hunt.