Credit: USA Today Sports, AP-Scanpix | BasketNews illustration
Credit USA Today Sports, AP-Scanpix | BasketNews illustration

Every week is a new beginning, and last week was celebrated as the introduction of a new country to the NBA scoring charter.  

Lauri Markkanen

Lauri  Markkanen
Lauri  Markkanen
MIN: 30.64
PTS: 13.29 (48.93%)
REB: 5.31
As: 1.57
ST: 0.8
BL: 0.57
TO: 0.8
GM: 35

Neemias Queta, a former Benfica player and Utah State Aggies alumni, became the first player from Portugal to score in an NBA game with 11 points against the Cavaliers to become a part of his country's basketball history.

Will we see more of that high-arch, moonball floaters from Queta? Too early to tell. But there is something to cheer about, surely. 

It is hard to have a week without Giannis Antetokounmpo breaking any record, but how many of these Herculean efforts of the Greek Freak lead his team to the victory is another question.

Bucks won against the Warriors, in a much-anticipated game of the week where Giannis was on absolute fire against the second-best team of the NBA.

This was the 9th time in 10 games that he scored 30+ points, hitting 10+ field goals in the process in all of them, but one. Against the Warriors, all the stats looked a little bit shinier because of the season-high 11 assists. 

On that latter point, Giannis not only provides the second-most per game assists (5.9) after Jrue Holiday (6.7), but his estimated assists percentage is a career-best equalling 32.8%, the second-best rate among the forwards who played at least 20 games this season (Luka Doncic is at the top with 47.2%, listed as a forward this season per

Speaking of the Luka Magic, he is still building brick houses out of missed threes, but who cares? The Mavericks turned to winning ways after his comeback from injury and bounced back with four victories out of the last five, while Doncic is averaging 23.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 8 assists on average.

Luka Doncic

Luka  Doncic
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Position: SG
Age: 22
Height: 201 cm
Weight: 99 kg
Birth place: Slovenia

And yes, he also showcased the trash-talking skills that he acquired in the NBA against Moritz Wagner of the Magic. 

Third Big Lauri Markkanen Provides Emergency Support

Cleveland Cavaliers keep surprising the NBA community with an eyebrow-raising series of wins. They seemed to be fading out from the Cinderella story when they lost against the Warriors without much fighting effort, but they just came back with four flashy wins in a week.

They lost Colin Sexton and then Ricky Rubio to season-ending injuries. But yet, they have Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish forward became a member of the unorthodox "3 bigs" lineup of JB Bickerstaff this season, and he is blossoming. 

Last week, Markkanen played one of his best games of the season while giving the Utah Jazz their fourth loss in succession. Surely, Rudy Gobert's absence made a great difference for the opponent, but Markkanen's 20 points and 6 rebounds gave extra help for the struggling Cleveland offense. 

This season could not particularly be deemed as a good season for Markkanen's outside shooting as his season 3 FG% suggests with a career-low 32%.

But against the Kings and the Jazz, his stationary and non-stationary shooting from deep gave a glimpse of potential gains if he regains that touch he showed last season while he was still playing for the Bulls (41%).

The scoring support might have diminished in back-to-backs against the Spurs and the Thunder (8 and 12 points, respectively). Still, his presence on the court surely makes a difference as the lineup of Garland-Stevens-Markkanen-Mobley and Allen is in the league's top 10 defensive combinations per Cleaning the Glass.

Markkanen's efficiency is also reflected in minutes and usage rate. Despite playing over 30 minutes on average in 35 games, his turnover rate is below 1 and only 6.8% when using a possession.

Cutting, spot-up shooting, or transition scoring; whatever Markkanen does, he does it in a simple way. Cavs will need that more towards the end of the regular season when the stakes will rise for the playoffs spots.

Jusuf Nurkic's sparkle to inspire Trail Blazers' Recovery 

The season is not going as the Trail Blazers would prefer. Rollercoaster results make it hard for them to pile up some confidence as they struggle to keep afloat for the play-in spot (currently, 10th in the West with 17-25)

While the workplace misconduct investigation required an accelerated reform in the front office, they got another blow on the court level from the franchise player, Damian Lillard, who is out for at least 6 weeks because of an abdominal injury.

Despite all bad news, last week was like a fresh breath of air with three wins out of four, and Jusuf Nurkic gave a helping hand for the Trail Blazers.

The Bosnian center's 23 points against the Wizards was his highest-scoring performance in 1,5 months, after a 30+ points game against the Clippers. Nurkic's physicality seemed too much to handle for the Wizards' bigs like Daniel Gafford, Thomas Bryant, and Montrezl Harrell as he completed the season's 17th double-double with 14 rebounds in the bag.

The 2.11-meter center was close to his first triple-double in the last 3 seasons, with 14 points, 16 rebounds, and a season-high 9 assists against the Kings on the previous Sunday, where he exhibited his one-handed distribution skills of himself.

Against the Nuggets, Nurkic showed how effective he could be in the "Chicago action," a special basketball move where the player immediately sets a screen after a pass to create a shot.

His 6 assists could not become a decisive factor in the blowout loss in that game. Still, throughout the week, his 3.7 assisting average and 19% assisting rate reminded the previous season's elite passing level that we witnessed from him.

Hayes assisting Pistons to Stay Afloat

Being a team member of the second-worst team in the entire league does not seem to be the most encouraging fact for Killian Hayes in his second year in the NBA.

But these situations might be better for the young players regarding playing time and opportunities. And last week, it was not bad at all for the Pistons.

As the starting partner of No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham in the guard position tandem, Hayes and co. led the Pistons to two victories, including the comeback win against the Jazz and Toronto Raptors. 

From one step behind, these are not anything bigger than some feel-good victories for the Pistons, and Hayes is not a shiny star, but finally, he started to deliver. By dishing 18 assists in 4 games last week, people started to notice the French guard's distributive capacity. 

Missing so many games last season might have hampered his confidence, but Hayes is having a much more healthy season and extending his game role gradually. 

He is still the table-setter for the likes of Saddiq Bey and Cunningham and keeps that identity of being a high Assist/Usage player (1.28 - Top-20 quantile among the guards) but regularly giving scoring support, albeit in single digits (9-5-8-5 against the Suns, Raptors, Bulls, and Jazz respectively).

His four steals against the Bulls was a good reminder of his proactive stance and disruptive point defender as he made at least one steal in the five of his last seven games. 

Besides, his rebounding ability should not be underestimated in contested and uncontested scenarios. His vertical jump and boxing out awareness enable him to clear the boards for Pistons when needed.

What Hayes needs to do is extend his 3-point shooting volume, and hit more of them. The current 41% field goal shooting frequency and accuracy would not be enough to get him into the next level.

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