The last Friday before Thanksgiving in Portland, man. A year ago on that day, Derrick Rose tore his meniscus. The schedule makers decided to run it back in 2014 and all the Bulls got out of it was a blowout loss to the Trail Blazers and another scary injury to a key player. This time it was Taj Gibson.
There weren't many silver linings in a 105-87 loss, but the performance of Nikola Mirotic was definitely one of them. Mirotic became the first rookie to post a 20-point double-double this season by finishing with 24 points, 11 rebounds and two assists on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range. Mirotic had only played over 20 minutes twice so far this season, but with Pau Gasol out and Gibson getting hurt, the 23-year-old made the most of his 35 minutes on the court.
There's still a steep learning curve for Mirotic defensively, but it's paramount that Tom Thibodeau uses the regular season to develop he and Doug McDermott. While McDermott is struggling right now, Mirotic has been playing well offensively. After watching these highlights, it's hard to think Mirotic will end up as anything less than a very good player. He's just so skilled offensively.
His ability to put the ball on the floor is what surprised me early this season. On one play at about the :30-second mark, he grabs a rebound and pushes it from end-to-end to draw a foul. That's huge for an offensive that has routinely ranked near the bottom of the league in pace (they're No. 17 this year). Having a power forward that can push the tempo off a miss is a major luxury.
From three-point shooting to the ability to finish at the rim, Mirotic was really impressive last night. In what was otherwise arguably the worst game of the season (don't read this as motivation, Solomon Hill), at least we got something non-depressing out of it.