A rookie season is bound to be a bumpy ride. While Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen has been through some lulls, he just completed his best four-game stretch.
In the past four contests, Markkanen has averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and shot 53 percent from the field.
"The guys are so good that I go against every day in practice, then every other day in games," Markkanen said Thursday. "I don't think you have any other options than (to) get better."
Over the full season, Markkanen ranks fourth among NBA rookies in scoring (14.9 ppg) and second in rebounds (7.6). He missed three games with a sore back last month, in the midst of the Bulls' seven-game win streak, and has had a few shooting slumps.
"He is showing a lot of confidence right now after going through a tough stretch," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He's still so young and raw in this process. To be able to battle through when teams I'm sure have him as the No. 1 guy on the scouting report … Lauri's continuing to read situations very well."
One sign of Markkanen's growing confidence is how often he'll grab a defensive rebound and set out to lead a fast break.
"Now that he has shown the ability to do that, we have to run with him," Hoiberg said. "He's running by our guards. That's not a good thing.
"He's showing so much. He is showing step back 3s off the bounce. His midrange shot is really good. And his post game is improving by the day. I give our coaches a lot of credit for his skill development."
Holiday for four:
Justin Holiday nearly became the first player in Bulls history to record two 4-point plays in the same game.
On Wednesday against Toronto, Holiday had a 4-point play in the second quarter, then was fouled on a made 3-pointer in the final minute of the contest, but missed the free throw. For good measure, he was fouled on another 3-point attempt by the Raptors and sank all 3 free throws. Three 3-point fouls in the same game is unusual for most everyone except Houston's James Harden.
"The one thing I have improved on, I guess, is actually falling," Holiday said. "I used to never fall. I used to just sit there and hold it. When they close out and hit me, 'OK well, go ahead and fall.' I don't necessarily practice it."
Holiday thinks NBA referees have been watching fouls on 3-point shots more closely this season after the infamous foul in last year's playoffs when San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard injured his ankle when landing on Zaza Pachulia's foot.
Casey compliments Bulls:
Fred Hoiberg and his family had an extended visit after Wednesday's game with Toronto coach Dwane Casey. The two head coaches worked together in Minnesota years ago. After the Raptors' victory, Casey offered some compliments for the Bulls.
"The way they stretch the floor and space the floor it gives you a lot of issues and puts you in situations that you have to pay attention to detail or they will put you away," Casey said. "Kris Dunn's speed puts you in a situation where you are on your heels. They had us on our heels for three quarters. Fortunately, we woke up in the fourth quarter and played some defense."