I remember vividly before the regular season began when Lauri Markkanen had one of the most dominant performances at FIBA EuroBasket for his native Finland.
Carrying Finland all the way to the quarterfinals where they fell to eventual champion Spain, Markkanen averaged 27.9 points on 54/41/91 shooting splits. After getting traded to Utah the day before EuroBasket competition began, many were using EuroBasket as a barometer for what to expect from him in a Jazz uniform.
Even after he dominated the field, there were a lot of skeptics that it could translate to NBA success, and he’s proven those doubters to be dead wrong this year, now staking his claim as an All-Star starter after his 49-point outburst on Thursday.
But first, the Grizzlies young guns defeated the Magic young guns:
Grizzlies cruise past Magic, 123-115
Memphis never trailed after the first quarter as they were led by their young, dynamic duo of Ja Morant (32 points and six assists) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (31 points and 10 rebounds). Dillon Brooks scored just 11 points on 18 shots, but he was still a +6 on the night, joined in double figures by Ziaire Williams (16 points) and Tyus Jones (12) off the bench.
Garrett Townsend wrote brilliantly on Orlando Pinstriped Post about the Magic needing to start turning young pieces into tangible wins, and they were obviously unable to do that on Thursday, falling to 14-25 on the season, third-worst in the East. The young cornerstones Orlando is building around led the way in the loss with Paolo Banchero scoring 30 and Franz Wagner picking up 22.
Celtics bounce back from blowout loss with blowout win, 124-95 over Mavs
Coming off their 33-point loss in OKC on Tuesday, Jayson Tatum led the Celtics to a 29-point win in Dallas behind his 29-14-10 triple double, the second of his career. The Celtics get some much needed breathing room atop the standings after Milwaukee and Brooklyn were both inching closer.
Boston defended Luka Doncic well, containing him to 23 points (23 shots) and just three assists.
Nice defense from Boston here. Horford switches on Luka in the pick and roll. On the kick Wood screens for Luka, Tatum switches that and contains the drive. pic.twitter.com/SUJja4DnXO
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) January 6, 2023
Lauri stakes his claim as an All-Star starter in Utah’s 131-114 win over Houston
When the NBA released the early returns on fan voting for the All-Star starters earlier on Thursday, Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen was just seventh among West frontcourt players. Plus, you could pretty easily argue he should’ve been higher with folks like Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Davis (just 25 games and not counting) both ahead of him.
Thursday night, Markkanen made his case to well a starter with his career-best 49-point night on elite efficiency — 15-27 (55.6%) from the floor and 6-15 (40.0%) from deep — in just 36 minutes. The Finnisher scored 14 of his 49 points in the final frame when Utah never trailed.
Nuggets go mercy rule on Clippers, 122-91
This game was over even before the halftime buzzer sounded when the score read 66-32 Denver. Nikola Jokic was likely on his way to yet another triple double if he played close to his season average of 33.6 minutes per game. Instead, he played just 24 minutes, posting 12 points, six rebounds, and nine assists.
Not a single Nugget reached 30 minutes, though seven reached double-figure scoring. On the Clippers’ side, head coach Ty Lue seemed to wave the white flag pretty quickly with no starters playing more than 18 minutes; Ivica Zubac led the starters in scoring with just eight.