LaVine, Markkanen Spark Bulls' Win Over Wolves

Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen made big plays late in a 117-110 win.

Cody Westerlund
January 22, 2020 - 11:09 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) – It hasn’t been often in this disappointing season that Bulls coach Jim Boylen has had the occasion to praise the play of Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen together in crunch time, which is what made his words notable late Wednesday.

“Zach powered through, made some big plays at the end,” Boylen said after a 117-110 win against the Timberwolves at the United Center. “Lauri was terrific in the fourth quarter. I thought he set the tone for us in the fourth quarter.”

It felt like a long time coming for both Markkanen and the Bulls. As LaVine posted a team-high 25 points that have become his nightly staple, Markkanen added 21 points, including six in a fourth quarter that saw the Bulls use a late 11-0 run to pull away.

It was the first time since Jan. 6 that LaVine and Markkanen – two cornerstones of the Bulls’ rebuild – hit the 20-point mark in the same game. It was only the second time it had occurred since Dec. 18.

And at least for one evening, the outcry over Markkanen’s penchant for simply being a spot-up shooter in the Bulls’ offense subsided. While most of his work still came from the perimeter – 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts were from behind the arc – Markkanen did have two driving buckets at the rim, got to the free-throw line six times and worked off screens to get open for jumpers.

“I thought his activity, his ability to spread the floor and make shots – we played him at the five a little toward the end there – and I thought it was big,” Boylen said. “I thought we executed, and I thought he was really good.

“I just thought he had a good energy and was making good plays. I thought he had some great looks he made and had some great looks that he could’ve made, where he was in the right spot and let it fly. I liked the juice he had.”

It was just two days prior that Markkanen had lamented after a loss to the Bucks how he often doesn't get the ball on the move. On Wednesday, he was content with how he was used.

“I was involved a lot, kind of coming off ball screens,” Markkanen said. 

“If I get a couple looks early and I happen to make them, they got to end up guarding me differently. Then I’m going to have a drive to the basket, and I think I have a lot more options than just if I’m spotting up in the corner or anything like that. So I think it opens up the game a lot, not just for me. But I think the way they have to help on me, then it creates space for other guys too.”  

As is often the case, it was LaVine who authored a couple of the biggest plays. After a Kris Dunn layup tied it with 2:02 left, LaVine hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:26 left when he got space on a dribble hand-off from Markkanen, whom the Wolves had to respect. LaVine then followed later with two free throws to help clinch the win.

When it was all over, LaVine credited Markkanen for making the game much easier for himself.

“They can’t help, because it’s going to be an automatic three for you right there,” LaVine said of what happens when Markkanen is making a big impact.

“He’s been picking it up. He played really aggressive tonight. We love that. He was able to get to the free-throw line, was driving it, taking his shots. So we need that from him.”

The victory lifted the Bulls to 17-29, a mark that sits three games behind the Nets for the eighth seed in the East.

“I’m a glass-half-full type of dude,” LaVine said. “The season, we’re past the halfway point but before the All-Star break. There’s still a lot of games to be played. I’m always looking forward to the next one.”

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