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Bulls lottery odds set, as they lose in finale (but Lauri Markkanen was good)

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The rookie had a good season finale and wrote himself into the history books once again

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls received some luck alongside their own accomplishment of losing on the last game of the season. With the Bulls loss, plus the Knicks and Kings winning that same night, the Bulls finished the season tied for 6th in the draft order (via Tankathon.com), giving them a 18.3% chance at a top-3 pick. A random drawing on Friday will determine the tiebreaker should neither the Bulls nor Kings win the lottery. That same drawing will also determine where the Pelicans pick falls, as it’s currently in a three-way tie at the #21/22/23 slots.

In the actual game, the Bulls were wiped off the court 119-87 by the Pistons, who themselves were missing Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. The absences of their two best players didn’t stop Detroit from racing out to a 14 point lead after the first quarter (35-21) and never looking back. Despite scoring 29 in the second quarter, the Bulls failed to get back in the game at all and in the second half, the wheels completely fell off ending with a 13 point 4th quarter for Chicago.

If there is one positive to take away from the game, it was Lauri Markkanen ending his rookie season on a positive note. Markkanen dropped a team-high 20 points with 8 rebounds in only 22 minutes. Markkanen’s 3-7 mark from downtown broke a franchise rookie record for threes made (145), supplanting Kirk Hinrich in 2003-04.

This was actually the shot which broke the record and again Markkanen showed why teams need to step up to him off defensive switches.

Here the sequence all belongs to Markkanen as he is the one who grabs the loose ball and heads up the court on his own. Anthony Tolliver, who is guarding Markkanen on this possession, does a good job of facing up against Lauri and staying in front of him. But Markkanen quickly changes moves and drives to his left, using a screen set by Cristiano Felicio. This screen completely cuts off Tolliver and it means the only Detroit defender near Markkanen is Felicio’s man in Eric Moreland. Problem for the Pistons is when Felicio set the screen, Moreland was sagging back behind Felicio and didn’t step up when Markkanen used it. So coming off the screen, Markkanen didn’t have to deal with a defender in his face, which meant he had more than enough time to set himself and knock down the record breaking three-pointer.

On this play Markkanen got the best of the duo of Tolliver and Moreland. Markkanen takes the handoff from Felicio, who sets a screen on Tolliver and then rolls to the basket. Instead of switching, the Pistons instead opt to have both Moreland and Tolliver double the rookie head on. Sensing some space on the right baseline, Markkanen keeps running right after taking the handoff and is able to turn the corner on Moreland. From then on it was an open basket in sight for the rookie. James Ennis was the only defender left to stop Markkanen as he dropped down in the lane to help guard Felicio but he made a smart business decision and backed off as Markkanen leaped. It was a smooth move as it only took Markkanen two dribbles from the handoff to turn the corner and go up for the slam. Moreland tried to swat the ball from behind as Markkanen went up but there was nothing the Detroit big man could do about it.

There was a ton of speculation at the beginning of the season on just how good Markkanen can be or if he would even be good at all. He has seemed to put a lot of the doubt to rest. Despite hitting the rookie wall and injuries in the middle of the season, Markkanen finished the season strong and his averages look pretty decent for a guy in his first year of NBA basketball.

Markkanen was Chicago’s brightest young player this year and was a joy to watch. He will have to improve on a lot of things heading into next season but offensively it seems like he’s going to be problem for opposing defenses for a long time to come.