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The win streak is over, but Lauri Markkanen is still beasting

Another 20+ point night from Markkanen

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

One of the better developments which have happened during this nice month of Chicago Bulls basketball has been Lauri’s Markkanen outstanding play. He’s been on fire in February, averaging 26.9 points and 12.4 rebounds while shooting 37.5% from three and an overall TS% of 62.8. He’s seen an uptick in three-points attempted from 6.3 last month to 7.1 and has been producing all while not having a ridiculous usage percentage of 26.6. He’s scored more than 20 points in all of the games he’s played so far in February and the trend continued against one of the best teams in the entire NBA. Despite the 117-106 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Markkanen had a great game. He dropped a team-high 26 points and did so while shooting 50% from the field (11-22) along with 12 rebounds.

Although he had a tough night shooting the ball from three, going just 2 of 6, Markkanen still displayed a lot of versatility offensively. He continues to show defenses he’s a lot more than just a three-point shooter. Against Milwaukee, Markkanen flashed his growing ability to put the ball down on the floor and create offense for himself. He took advantage of the matchups the Bucks threw at him and it resulted in easy shots.

Now this one of the more impressive plays you will see Markkanen make all season. He gets the ball at the top of the key from Shaq Harrison and immediately looks to attack the defender in front of him. Nikola Mirotic is caught flat-footed for a moment and it allows Markkanen to drive past him going left. Now Mirotic does a good job recovering and Markkanen, for some reason, drives into a cluster of players on the left side. One of them is Khris Middleton, who was guarding Harrison on the perimeter. But due to the lack of shooting, he is able to drop deep and help stop drives if necessary. Middleton sees Markkanen driving into the lane and takes a swipe at the ball as soon Lauri gets to the free throw line. With Mirotic right on his hip as well, it seems Markkanen has made a poor decision in driving the ball. He quickly improvises by spinning to his right, avoiding the hand of Middleton and catching Mirotic completely off guard. However, he’s not out of the woods just yet when he completes his spin, Mirotic is still with him and right in his face. Markkanen takes a long stride in the lane to his right in front of the restricted area and jumps. He then turns mid-air and seems to hang there for a couple of seconds. As he is falling down he seems to do a double pump with the ball, shooting it right before his feet hit the ground. This was a rare play you don’t see from many 7-footers at all. It was a very special sequence from Markkanen and something he’s been doing more as of late.

One of the more successful set plays the Bulls have had with Markkanen has been the big to big dribble hand-offs. This time instead of Robin Lopez it is Cristiano Felicio who will be giving the ball off. Markkanen’s matched up against Mirotic again as the ball starts off in Harrison’s hands once again. He gives it off to Felicio and then runs over to set a screen on Mirotic. When the ball is given to Felicio, Markkanen is on the move and helps out Harrison by running towards the guard. Malcolm Brogdon, Harrison’s man, stays at home and doesn’t choose to switch and stop Markkanen coming around the screen. This is setting up Ersan Ilyasova, who is guarding Felicio, to be the key defender in this action. As soon as Markkanen gets the ball, Ilyasova drops back two steps into the paint. It seemed like he was protecting against a Felicio roll to the rim but it turned out to be the completely wrong move. With Felicio completely screening Mirotic and Ilyasova too far away from a solid contest, Markkanen had all the space in the world. He took his time, stepped back, and drained a long two-pointer to keep the Bulls in the game for the time being.

His passing has been improving as well and this play was another positive from Markkanen despite it not directly resulting in a basket.

Markkanen has been a bright spot as of late and it’s really nice to see him continuing to be aggressive in finding his own shot. Hopefully this can continue and he can keep making highlights while driving up the optimism about his ceiling as a player.