Markkanen, Bulls prepare for rematch with Grizzlies
It could be termed a lost and found season for the Chicago Bulls.
While the Bulls (16-45) have already clinched a losing season, the organization has found out it can start penciling in Lauri Markkanen for big performances.
The second-year power forward looks to post his 10th consecutive outing of 20 or more points when the Bulls visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Markkanen has recorded seven double-doubles during a stretch in which he is averaging 26.4 points and 12.4 rebounds. He had 26 points and 12 boards in Monday's 117-106 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I'm not a stat guy," Markkanen said after the contest. "I just try to get the rebound and get us off running. I think that helps the team so much."
While Markkanen doesn't like to talk about himself, coach Jim Boylen is happy to rave about the 7-footer's progress.
"Lauri's involved in so many plays, and the ball finds him. He's a big part of what we do," Boylen said after Monday's contest. "The ball is in his hands a lot, which is what we want -- it's good for us.
"There's an awareness on our team that he's a primary guy and we've got to get him the rock."
Markkanen has 15 double-doubles in 38 games this season after missing the first six weeks with an elbow injury.
Markkanen had 21 points, nine rebounds and a career-best six assists when Chicago recorded a 122-110 home win over the Grizzlies on Feb. 13.
Forward Otto Porter Jr. scored a career-best 37 points on 16-of-20 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds that night, but he is questionable to play Wednesday due to a left lower-leg strain. The status of point guard Kris Dunn (migraine) is also in doubt. Both players sat out against Milwaukee.
Memphis (24-38) ended a four-game slide on Monday by posting a 110-105 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Point guard Mike Conley scored 30 points and has tallied at least 25 in five of his past nine games. Conley was just 3-of-11 shooting for 12 points in the recent loss to the Bulls.
Big man Joakim Noah celebrated his 34th birthday with 14 points and 12 rebounds for his third straight double-double against the Lakers, along with a critical charge taken against LeBron James in the closing seconds. The former Chicago standout is averaging 17.3 points and 10 rebounds over the past three games.
"I'm really happy we got the win," Noah said afterward. "The energy was great. The bench was on fire. Guys played well."
Noah's recent stellar play has been reminiscent of his early years in the NBA, and new teammate Jonas Valanciunas was surprised to be asked if he has ever played with anyone who packs Noah's type of intensity.
"Uh, no. I've never played with a guy like this," Valanciunas said. "I'm happy to be part of that."
Valanciunas, who was acquired from the Toronto Raptors in the deal for Marc Gasol, had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Lakers for his third double-double in four games with the Grizzlies.
Guard Avery Bradley, acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers at the deadline, had 15 points and has scored 15 or more in four of the past five games.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019