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Lauri Markkanen scored without the three-pointer, and that’s big

Maybe he is a ‘Unicorn ‘

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the Bulls loss last night against the Miami Heat, Lauri Markkanen poured in a season-high 25 points on 9-for-18 from the field. All season, he has impressed with his 3-point shooting prowess, but last night he only went 2-for-7 from this range. Instead, Markkanen showcased his offensive versatility last night with a blend of speed, athleticism, and touch around the rim that a player over seven feet tall has no business being able to do.

A label reserved lately for young NBA stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis, and Nikola Jokic, a unicorn is a basketball player whose skillset combined with their body profile makes them a one-in-a-million NBA talent. They are able to do things at their size and height that no other NBA player can. Can Markkanen be of that mold?

In the full highlight video below from the first half last night, Markkanen hits a couple jumpers, but even better took advantage of mismatches in the post in several plays. Like most teams have done all season, the Heat were switching everything, and for really the first time all season:

1) Markkanen finally took advantage of a mismatch in the post by establishing good, deep post position

2) somebody on the Bulls recognized the mismatch and fed him the ball in a place where he could score.

Markkanen continues to impress with the explosiveness of his first step. It’s even more effective because defenders often close out on him really hard on the perimeter because of his lethal 3-point shooting, and Markkanen just scoots around them for opportunities in the paint. The soft touch on the floater is something that most seven footers can’t do.

He also did this before the game on Saturday night which hasn’t received the attention it probably deserves.

Markkanen has shown flashes of unicorn-level ability this season. Last night, it was encouraging to see him score in a variety of different ways and score his highest point total of the season despite only knocking down two of the seven 3-point field goals he attempted.

In the Bulls non-competitive loss against Oklahoma City last Saturday night, the Bulls relegated Markkanen to the pick-and-pop game or had him hover around the 3-point line waiting for teammates to get him a shot. Last night, the Bulls used Markkanen more creatively and unpredictably, and the result was a complete showcase of his offensive abilities.