The Bulls finally showed a closer's touch in winning a much-needed game Friday night, holding off the Pistons' rally from 16 points down to prevail 112-106 at the United Center.
Lauri Markkanen had a good seat for it.
For the second straight game, coach Jim Boylen opted to play Thad Young down the stretch over Markkanen. This time, Boylen cited Markkanen's departure to the locker room during the fourth quarter to have his left side examined as a partial reason, although Boylen also praised Young's play. Plus, both Boylen and Markkanen admitted the third-year forward was available if needed.
It's a good sign that the Bulls won, Young played well again and Markkanen handled his benching without rocking the boat. It's a bad sign that the Bulls have publicly stated all their offseason moves, including the signing of Young, were made to clear the runway for Markkanen and Zach LaVine to take steps towards stardom.
Instead, Markkanen has been grounded for two straight fourth quarters.
"You always love to play," Markkanen said. "You guys know I'm a team-first guy. Whatever lineup is working, I'm cool. I'm going to do whatever the team needs. Of course you want to be out there, but it's not my decision."
Markkanen said this in the postgame locker room. But he also fielded questions at the morning shootaround about not playing down the stretch of Wednesday's loss in Cleveland.
"Otto (Porter) sat out a fourth quarter in Memphis. Sometimes I'm going to ride with a guy.," Boylen said. "He had an injury tonight. So I don't think that really applies. Hopefully he'll be OK and he'll be back."
Markkanen said he's fine and could've played if asked.
"I'm good. I'm going to be all right," he said. "I don't really know what happened. I don't remember any specific play. It's my side. But I was good to go. But guys were playing really well."
Young played the final 18 minutes and sank two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. He finished with eight points, nine rebounds and three steals.
"(Boylen) understands who needs to be on the court at certain times," Young said. "Sometimes, Lauri will have it going. Sometimes, I'll have it going. When we're in the process of trying to win, whoever has it shaking and moving at that time, that's who we have to go with."
Markkanen scored 14 points and sank at least three 3-pointers for the first time this season.
"I've been taking what the defense is giving me. That's really been it," Markkanen said. "I got to the rim a couple of times, but it's mostly been from 3. We're working on it."
Lauri Markkanen falls out of closing rotation for 2nd straight game originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago