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updated: 10/30/2017 6:04 PM

Bulls trying to find more shots for Markkanen

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  • Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen (24), of Finland, looks to pass against Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen (24), of Finland, looks to pass against Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Chicago.
    Associated Press

 
 

Rookie Lauri Markkanen was the Bulls' top scorer with 15 points in Saturday's ugly loss to Oklahoma City.

In shot attempts, though, he was tied for fifth. Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn and Robin Lopez took more shots than Markkanen, while Jerian Grant and Quincy Pondexter -- who combined to go 1-for-14 from the field -- had the same number of attempts.

Those stats don't tell the complete story. Markkanen led the Bulls with 6 free-throw attempts, which were scoring chances, but not official shot attempts. Clearly, though, the rebuilding Bulls need to seek and find the 7-foot Finland native.

"We missed him standing all by himself on a couple occasions," coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday at the Advocate Center. "That can't happen, especially when he's the guy knocking down shots for us out there."

The issue was especially glaring in the first half, when Markkanen knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the opening five minutes of the game, then took just one other shot for the rest of the half.

Markkanen has lived in the U.S. for more than a year, having spent last season at the University of Arizona, but he seems a little shy by nature and certainly not in a position to start calling on teammates to get him the ball more often.

"Obviously, I've got to get more aggressive and demand the ball more," Markkanen said Monday. "I don't want to make stupid plays like turnovers or things like that. I mean, you just know it in the game if it's a bad shot or not."

Hoiberg suggested part of the problem is the Bulls didn't plan on Markkanen taking on such a large role from the start of the season. That all changed, obviously, when they lost both Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis in an Oct. 17 practice altercation. Mirotic is expected to be out 4-6 weeks with facial fractures and a concussion, while Portis was suspended eight games for throwing a punch.

Mirotic was slated to start at power forward on opening night. Markkanen had to be thrown into the mix right away and there have been no complaints so far. He's averaging 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds through five games. He leads NBA rookies in rebounds and is second in scoring to Philadelphia's Ben Simmons.

"He was thrust in a role that wasn't going to happen initially with the incident that happened right before the opener," Hoiberg said. "Now it's about adding after seeing what he can do. He has been so good. We knew he was a really good player. But what he has shown in a game-type setting has been so impressive.

"Now we have to find a way to get him the ball and more shots. Teams are trying to take him away more. He's probably the No. 1 thing that teams are talking about on their scouting report. But we have to find a way to get him open."

Both Markkanen and Hoiberg were asked about the rookie's favorite spots on the floor and the answer seems to be anywhere that has a view of the basket. Markkanen is shooting 43.1 percent overall and 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

"Yeah, there are specific spots," Hoiberg said. "All of them."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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