From dunks to threes, Lauri Markkanen makes history in the Bulls win over the Knicks
NEW YORK – They call it the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” because anyone who is anyone has shown off their talents within its walls.
From Frank Sinatra to Muhammad Ail, from the NBA, NHL, and professional wrestling. Performers in many forms of entertainment have excelled in the major Madison Square Garden spotlight. When they do, a person adds a little something to the mystique of the arena, and their performance there elevates their own status as well.
Maybe it’s a little too hyperbolic to describe a Wednesday evening performance from a Bulls rookie in the middle of January. Yet Lauri Markkanen’s game was good enough to shake out some of those old memories for sports fans in New York and Chicago.
It wasn’t just his career-high 33 points and team-high ten rebounds that tell the story of his memorable performance in 122-110 victory by the Bulls of the host Knicks. Markkanen hit eight-three pointers on the night, tying Dirk Nowitzki for the most in a single game by a player seven-feet tall.
Oh, and there was that dunk.
A drive down the baseline in the third quarter led to a rim-rocking slam over Knicks’ center Enes Kanter that drew a loud gasp from the Madison Square Garden crowd. It even drew a memorable quote from the normally straight-laced Fred Hoiberg after the game.
“I damn near passed out when he dunked that one. That was unbelievable,” said Hoiberg of the slam.
That soundbite, along with the dunk itself, are two of the most shared videos on social media of the sports day, yet Markkanen’s response to how he made it happen was rather simple.
“I didn’t know if he was coming in or not,” said Markkanen of the slam. ” I just had to go for it.”
Yet it was really rookie’s record-tying three-point barrage that was needed the most for the Bulls in a tight game with the Knicks that would need two extra sessions to decide. Kris Dunn gave the Bulls the lead in the second overtime session on a hoop with just a minute to go, and fittingly it was Markkanen’s final two free throws that sealed the victory.
“It feels great to win, especially after that kinda game,” said Markkanen.
The place he delivered the performance made it that much more special.