Lauri Markkanen is back.
Friday night Markkanen scored 24 points — for the second straight game — and hit four 3-pointers, bringing some spacing to the Bulls offense.
Then, when the game was tied (following a Russell Westbrook driving layup), it was Markkanen who took charge, put a spin move on an outstanding defender in Paul George, and hit a contested runner for the game-winner.
The Thunder have the best defense in the NBA, but the Bucks were giving them problems and it all started with the Zach LaVine/Markkanen pick-and-pop where the big has to come out and honor Markkanen’s ability to knock down the three, opening up driving lanes for LaVine. Since the Finnish star returned to the Bulls this week, their offensive spacing has looked much better.
(As an aside, this is why the Bulls made the coaching change when they did, firing Fred Hoiberg and giving the big chair to Jim Boylen — let the new coach hit the ground running with the team’s best big man returning.)
The Bulls will soon also get Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis back from injury. That’s not going to make them a threat to the Raptors, but it’s going to make them much better and a much tougher out every night.
They already are, just asked the Thunder.