In an uncharacteristically quiet game, Bulls star Lauri Markkanen scored 13 points on 6-for-15 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds in 31 minutes as his Finland National Team fell to the Czech Republic 77-73.
It’s a blow to Team Finland as they now sit at 2-3 in the first round of qualifying for the FIBA World Cup and risk falling out of the top three in their pool which would mean they wouldn’t advance to the next round of qualifying. Finland is in a three-way tie in their pool with Bulgaria and Iceland with a showdown against the latter team looming on Monday.
Now for the Markkanen breakdown. There isn’t a ton of stuff to go off of since he didn’t have the best of games. However, there was this highlight.
Everything about this highlight is amazing. Look at how quick that first step is. That’s your 7-foot power forward driving left from the 3-point line all the way to the basket and dunking through contact. The guy he blew past was Pavel Pumprla, a 6-foot-6-inch small forward who theoretically should be a lot quicker and more athletic than Markkanen given his size and position.
The stare down at the end caps it all off because Markkanen is such a nice, non-assuming guy and we really haven’t seen him deliberately show anybody up like that before.
At the 47-second mark of this video, Markkanen makes a nice pass out of a double team to a teammate who had cut from the weakside corner to just under the elbow. Markkanen was basically inconsequential in the playmaking department his rookie season (1.4 assists per 36 minutes; 6.4 percent assist percentage).
If Markkanen can become a playmaking threat inside coupled with Wendell Carter Jr. who is already a good passer, that would make the Bulls entire offense very dangerous.
Also in the video above check out the 1:09 mark. Finland isolates Markkanen in the post against 6-foot-7-inch forward Martin Kriz. No. 4 on the Czech Republic (Tomas Vyoral) doesn’t dig effectively and it becomes an easy jumper opportunity for Markkanen who is both five inches taller than Vyoral and has a high release on his shot anyway.
Obviously, these are the highlights. In a 6-for-15 shooting night in a loss, there are going to be a lot of lowlights as well. Markkanen is playing for Finland right now only because they are on the fence to qualify for the next round and he’s so much better (at least on most nights) than so many of these other guys so he should be able to move the needle in Finland’s favor.
Markkanen simply must be better than what he was in this game.