CHICAGO – Over the last few years, fans have come to expect the unusual when it comes to the Bulls, and that was the case about an hour before Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons.
First, there was the news that Coby White has sprained his ankle during pregame warm-ups, putting his status for the game in jeopardy. Then came the very unexpected decision to start Shaq Harrison alongside traditional starting guards Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky.
Before Wednesday night, Harrison had played just 25 minutes in seven games coming off the bench and scored just ten points.
Something also happened that fans haven’t come to expect from one of the team’s young core players over the last month. But unlike other surprises, this one was a very pleasant one for everyone involved.
Lauri Markkanen was able to find his shot on around the offensive end against the Pistons at the United Center on Wednesday after struggling most of November. He went 7-of-14 from the field and scored a game-high 24 points as the Bulls raced past the Pistons 109-89.
He helped the Bulls get off to a strong start with 15 first half points before the Bulls did something they’ve rarely done this season – finish strong. They built a 15-point lead after three quarters and didn’t let up to tie their largest margin of victory on the season.
Yet Markkanen might be the most positive part of the night in which the team honored the recently retired Luol Deng. A number of his former teammates, including former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, were in attendance as Derrick Rose took the floor for the Pistons (18 points, 24 minutes).
Markkannen has been averaging just 12.3 points per game in the month of November, a drop in production from his 17.4 points per game he had in October, which was boosted by a 35-point opening night against the Hornets. His shot attempts decreased too, taking an average of 9.8 shots per game instead of the 15 he was averaging a month earlier.
That’s what makes his performance on Wednesday encouraging, especially after a 2-for-12 performance against the Bucks on Monday, Markkanen took a month-high in shots (14) and made the most in November (7) during his 29 minutes on the floor in the Bulls’ fifth victory.
Plus seven of those points came in the fourth quarter, a time when Markkanen has been on the bench during his recent slump.
Wednesday’s effort doesn’t necessarily mean that the forward is out of his rut, but at least it’s a pleasant surprise on a night where they were a few at the United Center.