It might've been Lauri Markkanen's most explosive move of the season to this point. In the first half of the Bulls' road victory over the Kings on Dec. 2, the power forward faked a dribble-handoff, took a dribble and explosively dunked with authority.
Markkanen scored 20 points that night and has reached that level in four of six December games. In fact, over the last six games, Markkanen has doubled his 20-point game output from the first 20 games while shooting 52.6 percent overall and 43.5 percent from 3-point range.
"I'm staying confident and trying to finish every shot, not fall out of it," Markkanen said following Friday's morning shootaround at the Advocate Center. "I've tried to be active at both ends. Obviously, I've been getting a lot of good looks from my teammates. I'm trying to attack the rim and make my open shots. If I get to the rim early, it opens up the 3 ball later."
Markkanen is attempting 7.7 3-pointers per game this month, his highest monthly total to date. But his scoring has featured his full arsenal — dunks, drives, one-legged drag steps. Both he and coach Jim Boylen agreed he's been more on the move offensively rather than serving as a stationary shooter.
"I think that's him engaging in the game and playing harder and with more energy," Boylen said. "He's just bringing it.
"He's driven the ball more. He's also had more dunks. His rim finishes are up, percentages and attempts. That's important. It's nice when you get a couple easy ones or ones at the rim. Then, the other ones, the rim looks a little bigger."
Markkanen is as stoic and as even-keeled as they come, but he publicly admitted to frustration a couple times during his slow start. He also got tired of talking about it. He knew what he had to do.
"There are tough times for everybody," Markkanen said. "It was a little tough earlier in the year. But even then, I always said I'd keep working and try to stay positive. I thought things would fall into place."
And now that they have over a six-game stretch, he won't celebrate. He'll continue to put in the work, knowing how much he means to the fortunes of the franchise. Zach LaVine, in particular, voiced strong support for Markkanen throughout his early-season struggles.
"Just knowing that my teammates have my back, that's the most important thing," Markkanen said. "No matter how many shots I missed, I felt my teammates supported me and believed in me. That's really important. You can't lose confidence when that happens."
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