Lauri Markkanen Regains Rhythm In Bulls' Win

Markkanen had 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting in a victory against the Wizards.

Cody Westerlund
March 20, 2019 - 11:03 pm
Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen, left, and point guard Kris Dunn celebrate.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) – In his second NBA season, Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen has gradually come to better understand the weighty challenge of consistently producing at an elite level.

He did just that in February, when he posted 26.0 points and 12.2 rebounds while shooting 48.6 percent in 10 games. What followed has been a rockier March, one in which he dipped to 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds and a 38.8-percent shooting clip in 10 games entering play Wednesday.

“Last year, I was kind of able to surprise some teams, shoot the ball and have good games,” Markkanen said. “I’m not surprising anybody this year, so I have to figure it out, how to get around different coverage and stuff like that. We play a lot of games in this league, so it’s tough to be consistent.”

Markkanen’s comments were also marked by a sense of relief, as he rediscovered his rhythm in a 126-120 overtime win against the Wizards at the United Center. Markkanen had a game-high 32 points and 13 rebounds on 12-of-21 shooting. With Zach LaVine (thigh) and Otto Porter Jr. (shoulder) sidelined, Markkanen was aggressive from the get-go, scoring 10 points in the first nine minutes.

It represented the first time since March 1 – when the Bulls outlasted the Hawks in four overtimes – that Markkanen reached the 20-point threshold.

“Lauri looked like Lauri,” coach Jim Boylen said.

“I thought he got it in a lot of different ways. Obviously, when you go 5-for-8 from the 3 and shoot the ball like that from the 3, that helps his game. We’ve been moving him around. We get him coming off the baseline. We get him coming downhill. We get him turning the corner. But I think when that 3-ball starts going for him, it all kind of comes together for him. I think for him, when he rebounds the ball, he plays well. He had 13 rebounds tonight, so good stuff.”

In the aftermath of his struggles, Markkanen turned to a tool he often relies on – film. He looked for any hitch in his form.

“There were a couple times – and I knew it even before watching film – I was fading away and I was short,” Markkanen said. “So it’s just trying to focus on my follow-up and being on balance. That’s pretty much all I did.

“It feels good, obviously. It’s nice to make a couple of shots every once in a while. So it feels good. I didn’t change anything. I just kept working on it every day before practice, after practice and do whatever I had to do.”

Markkanen was later asked if his strong February led to himself envisioning stardom in his future. He answered in the affirmative while also being certain to point out that stars must be consistently great, with few off games and certainly no off months.

“I mean, my confidence is up there and obviously I have a long way to go,” Markkanen said. “But I was playing better in February, and I was kind of thinking that I can play like that in the future too kind of consistently. I got a ways to go.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.