Markkanen, hot-shooting Bulls top playoff-bound Wizards
CHICAGO — After coach Fred Hoiberg went home sick, rookie Lauri Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls came out shooting feverishly.
Markkanen scored 23 points and connected on 5 of 8 3-pointers to lead Chicago to a 113-94 win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
Bobby Portis had 18 points and hit 4 of 5 from long range, and Sean Kilpatrick added 14 points. The Bulls shot 52.4 percent overall from the floor and were 18-for-34 on 3s — matching their season high — as Hoiberg missed the game with an upper-respiratory infection.
Hoiberg left United Center before tipoff, leaving associate head coach Jim Boylen to direct Chicago to its second straight win following a seven-game skid.
“I thought we were focused from the start,” Boylen said. “We talked about a first-quarter edge. I thought we had it.”
The Bulls sizzled early against the playoff-bound Wizards, who rested five-time All-Star John Wall.
Chicago shot 60.9 percent in the quarter and connected on 8 of 11 3-point attempts, with Markkanen and Portis each sinking three from long range.
Markkanen nailed his first 3 just over three minutes in to set an early rhythm.
“Of course it helps when you make the first one, but I always think it’s going in,” said the 20-year-old Finn. “Just trying to take my normal shots and today they were falling a little bit better.”
“We ran a couple of things for him early just to get him to his spots where he can score and make plays,” Boylen added.
The Bulls kept connecting. Chicago upped its field-goal percentage to 64.3 and went 11-for-17 on 3s in the first half. Markkanen led with 15 points and four 3-pointers at the break and Chicago ahead 68-59.
Otto Porter Jr. led the Wizards with 17 points. Bradley Beal scored 15 points and reserve Mike Scott added 14.
Wall remained on the bench against Chicago after playing 33 minutes in his first game in over two months on Saturday. The slick point guard had 15 points and 14 assists in the Wizards’ playoff-clinching 107-93 win over Charlotte.
Before Saturday, Wall had last played on Jan. 25, six days before he underwent left knee surgery. The Wizards went 15-12 during that absence and they were flat on Sunday without their high-tempo star whom coach Scott Brooks called his team’s “Ferrari.”
“We made the playoffs, but are we just excited about making the playoffs?” Brooks said. “That’s the question we have to ask.
“We weren’t ready mentally. When you’re not ready mentally you’re not going to have a chance to win and that was the game tonight. They were just running their offense and we were chasing them around with no purpose.”
The Bulls opened a 15-point lead late in the first quarter before Washington finished the frame with a 6-0 run to cut it to 36-27. Getting a lift from Scott and others off their bench, the Wizards trimmed the Bulls’ lead to four points three times in the second quarter.
The Bulls maintained their hot shooting pace throughout first half before cooling down in the second.
“They came out and just shot 3s,” Beal said. “That’s pretty much all they did. For the most part, we couldn’t guard the 3-point line.”
Chicago then effectively managed its lead — and used all but one bench player — before pulling away late.