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Markkanen leads Finland to second round of qualifying

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That’s the Lauri we know and love

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

While you were freaking out about the latest developments in NBA free agency, Chicago Bulls star Lauri Markkanen earned some redemption.

In a must-win scenario yesterday, Markkanen played like the star that he is scoring 28 points on 10-for-12 from the field with seven rebounds and three assists to propel Finland to a 91-77 win against Iceland in front of a large Helsinki crowd. Finland will advance to the second round of qualifying with the victory.

It was a huge turnaround for Markkanen who scored just 13 points on 6-for-15 from the field as his Finnish team fell 77-73 to the Czech Republic on Friday and sat in a three-way tie for last place in their pool after that game (top three teams in each pool advance to the second round).

But today Markkanen dominated.

The chase-down block at the :22 second mark stands out for Markkanen. It’s astounding how well he moves for a 7-footer. However, in his previous seven FIBA games (six EuroBasket games last summer plus the game against the Czech Republic yesterday) Markkanen only blocked five shots total.

He’s nowhere near a suitable rim protector at this stage in his career, but his athleticism at his size makes him capable of highlight reel dunks like the one today against Iceland.

Here are the rest of the highlights from the game.

In two consecutive highlights starting at the 20 second-mark, an Iceland player beats him in the pick-and-roll. But that’s nit-picking since the rest of the reel is him dunking, leading the break, or blowing past guys on drives from the perimeter.

BaB community member UkriP pointed out in a comment that in the game on Friday one of Finland’s top players and playmakers Petteri Koponen was injured. He was back today and had 17 points and three assists so perhaps his presence helped Markkanen out as well.

Finland finished the first round of qualifying with a 3-3 record, just good enough to advance to the second round. Markkanen will not play for the Bulls Summer League team.