Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen bounces back after poor debut

Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen is going to have some bad nights at the office. He’s also going to have some strong nights, just like the one he had against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night in Cleveland.

Lauri Markkanen entered the final quarter of play on Tuesday night with just three points and still appeared that he was trying to find his way on an NBA court for the Chicago Bulls after back spasms delayed his preseason debut to this past Sunday night.

Then, like he did throughout the entire EuroBasket 2017 tournament last month, Markkanen finished (or “Finnished” for the pun, er … fun) the night as strong as any player on the floor with a 15-point explosion in the fourth quarter to lift the Bulls over the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second-to-last preseason game before the regular season.

“I’m not lacking confidence,” Markkanen told reporters after the Bulls’ 108-94 victory over the Cavs on Tuesday night. “I made one shot and felt even better.”

Markkanen definitely showed that he’s not afraid to shoot it, especially when the second and third units from Cleveland continued to give him open looks of the Bulls’ pick-and-pop sets.

This was that “one shot” Markkanen referred to after the game. He and David Nwaba ran a pick-and-pop look at the top of the key and Nwaba drew the defense towards him to free Markkanen up for the open look for 3.

A few possessions later in the quarter, the Bulls seemingly run the same concept, but with Ryan Archidiacono as the ball-handler. Markkanen screens Iman Shumpert, Shumpert trips over his own feet, Jeff Green gets caught ball-watching and Markkanen cans another 3.

I loved this play from Markkanen to curl out and drain the 3 over Green again. This reminded me of some things Finland ran for Markkanen during EuroBasket on the left side of the floor. Fred Hoiberg would be wise to run Markkanen off some pindown screens this season to free him up for open looks. It’s honestly crazy to think about.

Running your rookie 7-footer off a pindown to get him an open 3-pointer. What a time in the NBA.

If you watched Markkanen in EuroBasket, you definitely saw this baseline turnaround attempt a couple times. Markkanen is comfortable shooting this shot. It may not be the most efficient shot on the floor, but who can block that with such a high release?

Lauri Markkanen has already been dubbed as the Bulls’ best shooter by Fred Hoiberg. He showed what he can do late on Tuesday night. It’s just two preseason games, but Markkanen is showing absolutely no fear on the offensive end. He’s letting the rock fly and that’s a good thing for him and the Bulls. Playing with that confidence is going to take him a long way.

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