20-year-old Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen made his EuroBasket debut on Thursday, and he acquitted himself quite nicely after a sluggish start. Markkanen came alive in the second half and overtime to lead Finland to an 86-84 upset victory over France.
Markkanen poured in 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with seven rebounds in the victory. He also knocked down two triples, with both of those coming in the fourth quarter/OT as Finland stormed back from a late nine-point deficit.
The game didn’t start so hot for the rookie. Markkanen was passive early on and spent a good amount of time just hanging out around the perimeter. As the first half wore on he started to take matters in his own hands with some aggressive drives to the basket, and there were a few times where he even brought the ball up the floor.
Things really started working in the second half. Outside of a few ugly post-up opportunities (his need to add strength really showed here), he displayed a versatile offensive game. He knocked down those aforementioned 3s, hit a nice off-the-dribble jumper, threw down a putback dunk and got an easy bucket by running the floor, among other things. His confidence was sky high coming down the stretch of the game, and it was nice to see a little swagger after his second 3-pointer:
Markkanen scored 14 PTS in the last 3:35 of regulation + OT via jump hook, tip dunk, lefty finish, two spot 3s & a 2-dribble pull up going L pic.twitter.com/va4x1WWZOw— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) August 31, 2017
Markkanen seemed to hold his own defensively, although I admit I wasn’t watching him as closely on this end and was focusing more on his offense. He got beat a few times, but he didn’t appear to be a liability and he did a solid job challenging shots:
Markkanen has done a pretty nice job defensively tonight. Containing on the perimeter after switches, in position off the ball at the rim.— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) August 31, 2017
Overall, it was a promising performance. It was great to see him embrace the big stage as the game got tight down the stretch. I will note that this French team isn’t nearly as talented as years past, and they’re not particularly good down low. Boris Diaw is their primary big man and former Bull Joffrey Lauvergne (who, by the way, was just awful) is another one.
Still, it was fun to watch Lauri fill it up and lead Finland to a big win. Vijay will have more in-depth analysis coming!