After four straight losses to start the 2017/18 campaign, the Chicago Bulls finally have their first win of the season, 91-86 against the Atlanta Hawks. It was a very ugly win in a battle of the two tanking teams but a win is a win for this young squad. Offensively, it was an well-distributed performance by Chicago with all six players scoring in double digits including all five starters. Robin Lopez led the way with 16 points and David Nwaba had a fantastic double double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. But once again, it was the rookie Lauri Markkanen who shined the brightest in this game.
Markkanen recorded yet another double double, scoring 14 points on 5 of 13 shooting and also grabbed 12 rebounds. Despite only going 2 of 8 from three-point land (and getting impressively blocked by fellow rookie John Collins early) , Markkanen hit the biggest three-pointer of the game which helped seal Chicago’s first victory.
The Bulls have been doing the above a lot to get Markkanen open. A simple pick and pop play where the rookie is the screener and instead of rolling, Markkanen would stay near the three-point line, wait for the pass, and hopefully step into an open three.
It starts as Markkanen ran up from the left side of the paint and what looked like a slip screen on Malcolm Delaney. The key to this play was the movement of Mike Muscala, who was guarding Markkanen on the play. Muscala doesn’t switch with Delaney on the screen and instead chooses to sag back and defend the drive from Jerian Grant. That decision by the big man leaves Markkanen wide open for a pass and by the time Muscala is able to recover, it’s too late. Markkanen receives the pass from Grant, rises up and swishes a dagger three with 48.5 seconds left.
It was a clutch play by the rookie and a very ironic one because in the previous possession Chicago ran the same exact thing but for some reason Grant decided not to pass to a wide open Markkanen and instead chose to take a fadeaway isolation jumper on the baseline.
Bulls coaches pissed at Jerian Grant. Lauri Markkanen open for the 3 pointer- Grant didn't even look pic.twitter.com/Kl8wpeFt8n— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) October 27, 2017
This time Grant made the smart choice and put it in the hands of Chicago’s best offensive player.
Markkanen has had a historic start to his NBA career and thanks to his shooting in crunch time, he played a huge part in his first win as a Chicago Bull.
I was at the game, and seeing Markkanen do this was sick. Another highlight play.
Big game from David Nwaba
Markkanen wasn’t the only one to have a double double in this contest. David Nwaba had himself a game as well. He had a great performance and was the complete effort guy for Chicago, doing all the little things which don’t exactly show up on the stat sheet. He even attempted a three-pointer today (.071 career three-point attempt rate) and knocked it down!
It was the perfect performance by a player like Nwaba. He might not be the flashiest player to watch but he is effective and always gives 100% effort.