MINNEAPOLIS — Lauri Markkanen’s first basket in his first game since Jan. 22 came on a 7-foot bank shot early in the second quarter.
Just shy of three minutes later, he produced a flurry — a six-foot driving hook, a 19-foot jumper and a layup off an Otto Porter Jr. feed. Six points in 62 seconds. And what’s missing? Not a 3-pointer among the made baskets.
“Just that I can be aggressive and get to do multiple things and not be a spot-up shooter,” Markkanen said when asked for his goals over the final 20 games.
Markkanen on the move isn’t a novel concept, even if it looked that way occasionally earlier in this underwhelming season. Too often, Markkanen stood around the perimeter, relegated to a spot-up 3-point shooter.
That’s why, beyond his 13 points in close to 21 minutes, his return looked so promising. He attacked. He posted up. He only made one 3-pointer and still made an impact.
“I tried to get to the rim and get a couple easy ones. Of course you have to move to get there and not just stay at the 3-point line. Obviously talked with Coach too and we ran something to get me on the move. It was good,” Markkanen said. “Just tried to be aggressive and get in the lane. Had a couple postups. Think it was definitely a good direction.”
Markkanen said he felt good physically, particularly in the first half, and is ready for more minutes if the training staff clears him for more. He shot 6-for-10 and added four rebounds.
“I thought he tried. I thought he was active. I thought he was moving pretty good. I thought he showed his whole game — inside, outside,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I liked the fullcourt layup in transition where he handled it and Wendell (Carter Jr.) gave him a little screen and he got to the rim.
“He got the ball in the paint. He drove the ball — a little left-hander off the board. He showed his full game in the minutes he played. I think it was a good first showing for him.”
Did Boylen think Markkanen moved more than earlier this season?
“I don’t know. I’m just glad he played,” Boylen said. “It’s been a long time.”