After Friday’s win against the Orlando Magic, it was normal to expect some type of regression from the Chicago Bulls heading into a matchup against a team like the Washington Wizards. The Bulls have really struggled against playoff caliber teams and given how two of their best players are out in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, this seemed like a game which could get out of hand very quickly.
But the exact opposite happened. It was the Bulls who were the aggressors, jumping out to a 9 point lead in the first quarter and held a double digit point lead for most of the game that only kept growing.
Even a G-League quality 4th quarter lineup didn’t relinquish the lead even a tiny bit. Thanks to a dunk in the dying seconds by Cristiano Felicio, it was nearly a 20-point loss for the Wizards.
The star of the game was Lauri Markkanen, who led all players with 23 points. He was 5 of 8 from three-point land and along with grabbing 6 rebounds. Markkanen was fantastic offensively, showing a wide range of skills and gave the Wizards problems all game long. He got off to a hot start in the first quarter, scoring 9 points in quick succession.
(0:00-0:10) This was the first basket by Markkanen in the game and boy, was it a beauty. Again the Bulls go to their much used dribble handoff to start the action on this play. This time it’s Robin Lopez who has the ball near the free throw line and goes towards the other side of the court in Markkanen’s direction. Lopez then hands off the ball to Lauri while also setting a screen on Markieff Morris. The screen causes the Wizards to switch hence putting Lopez’s man, Marcin Gortat, left to guard Markkanen one on one at the top of the three-point line. Knowing Markkanen could drive right by him, Gortat doesn’t step up towards the rookie to try and close the space down between them. Instead he sags off just a bit. This gives Markkanen enough space to think, pull off a between the legs crossover, and then pull up to splash a three-ball in Gortat’s face. It was all in one motion right after he got the hand off from Lopez and it was quite the impressive play. Especially since it came off the dribble.
(0:10-0:18) Chicago ran the PNR with Markkanen as a roll man a lot in this play. Given how much the Wizards switched on this play, you can see why Chicago used it as a method to get Markkanen some easy jumpers. Like the first play, this set initially starts off with a dribble handoff. This time it’s Markkanen at the top of the three-point line handing it off to Cameron Payne. After Payne gets the dribble handoff, his defender in Tomas Satoransky senses the point guard could use Markkanen as a screen and runs around, beating Payne to the spot in front of him. However, Payne quickly stops after getting the handoff and goes the direction in which he came from, catching Satoransky on the wrong side of the play. To make matters worse for the Wizards point guard, after the handoff Markkanen reset his position and set a screen for Payne. It was a good job for Markkanen to turn around so quickly and begin the pick and roll play. After the pick, Markkanen slipped out to the three-point line. His man had to account for Payne after the pick that he was too far away when Lauri caught the ball and despite the late contest, Markkanen splashed another dribble.
Markkanen also had an impressive highlight when he ran the floor on a secondary fast break. It ended up in him side stepping a defender and getting an easy layup. But one of his more impressive plays came when he put the ball on the floor and scored on a difficult layup.
(1:10-1:18) Markkanen starts off the sequence by the Bulls running an isolation play for him with everyone cleared out to basically the corners. Again, Markkanen starts off with a dribble between the legs and then takes off to his left, beating his defender and having the upper hand going to the basket. With his defender on his hip, Markkanen rumbles his way towards the hoop but once he gets around the basket, he realizes he’s too far away to go up in one stride. So he stops and jumps into his defender, who is in between him and the basket. Markkanen then absorbs the contact and still puts up the shot, which goes in off the glass.
It was a good all around performance for Markkanen, who showed some offensive versatility against Washington. Even only playing 25 minutes, by game score it was his best game since the 1/10 breakout in Madison Square Garden. Performances like these give optimism of how high his ceiling can be as a offensive player moving forward.