Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen’s hot start will get put to test vs. Bertans

Davis Bertans Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Davis Bertans Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Two stretch big men will get to face each other on Dec. 29, as Lauri Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls will try to upend Davis Bertans and the Wizards.

A really interesting matchup lies on tap for fourth-year power forward Lauri Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls as they take on the Washington Wizards in their first road game of the regular season on Dec. 29. Markkanen and the Bulls hit the road after rounding out a three game homestand to start off the season.

In each of the Bulls first three games of the season, new signs of improvement showed for first-year head coach Billy Donovan. But all three of those games resulted in losses for Donovan and the Bulls. The most heartbreaking of them all came back on Dec. 27, when the Bulls fell short at home at the United Center to the Golden State Warriors on a last second game-winning three-pointer by shooting guard Damion Lee. The Warriors notched that win by the final score of 129-128.

The other two losses on the season so far for the Bulls came against two undefeated teams in the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers.

Moreover, in one of the most identical matchups that Markkanen will see all season, he gets to face the stretch Wizards big man Davis Bertans starting on Dec. 29. Markkanen and the Bulls do get two contests in a row against the Wizards on the road, on Dec. 29 and 31.

Bertans and the Wizards also carry a record of 0-3 into this game against the Bulls on Dec. 29. Two of the Wizards first three games of their regular season slate resulted in losses to the Orlando Magic, and the other to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The newly extended big man Bertans isn’t off to the best start either. He’s played in all three games for the Wizards so far this season (starting in none of them), playing in just south of 20 minutes per game. And Bertans averaged 9.3 points per game, 2.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.7 blocks. He shot 36.4 percent from the field, 35.0 percent from beyond the arc, and 62.5 percent from the free-throw line.

Bertans did much better last season in his inaugural run with the Wizards than he’s done through three games this year. But the Bulls showed that their poor defense through three games of their own can help give an offensive spark to otherwise struggling players.

Meanwhile, Markkanen is off to a solid start this season for the Bulls. He’s currently in the final year of his rookie contract, which is likely putting an added chip on his shoulder for this season. Markkanen started in all three games he’s played in for the Bulls so far this season. And he’s averaged 20.0 points per game, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.3 blocks.

Markkanen shot a very efficient 52.8 percent from the field, 47.6 percent from beyond the arc, and 80.0 percent from the free-throw line.

Bertans and Markkanen have faced each other on four occasions in the regular season. The latter of those two holds the edge in those four regular season meetings, with a record of 3-1. And in those four games, Markkanen averaged 18.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks. And he shot 56.0 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from beyond the arc, and 87.5 percent from the free-throw line.

Safe to say that Markkanen plays well when he faces Bertans.

Meanwhile, in those four meetings, Bertans averaged 15.0 points per game, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.3 blocks. And he shot 46.2 percent from the field, 53.1 percent from beyond the arc, and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line.

There’s only two games left on the Bulls regular season schedule before the turn of the calendar year to 2021. They face the Wizards on both occasions on the road in the nation’s capital. The Wizards are sizable 6.5 point favorites just ahead of tip off over the Bulls.

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The Bulls and Wizards tip off in the nation’s capital at 6 p.m. CT on Dec. 29. Markkanen will be looking to help guide his team to their first win of the season to make sure they don’t fall too far behind in the Eastern Conference standings.