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Career night for Mirotic in loss to Blazers
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PORTLAND - The Bulls annual circus trip turned into a sideshow Friday in a blowout 105-87 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Bulls seventh consecutive loss in Portland as they fell to 1-2 on the trip and 8-5 overall on the season. But they may have suffered a larger loss as Taj Gibson sustained a left ankle sprain in the third quarter and left the game. That left a core of deep reserves to finish out the game in which the Bulls trailed by 28 late in the third quarter and absorb the Portland domination. Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls with 24 points and 11 rebounds, new career-highs. Aaron Brooks was the only starter in double figures with 12. Portland was led by Damian Lillard with 21 and LaMarcus Aldridge with 16 points and nine rebounds.
The assignment became more difficult for the Bulls Friday in Portland, where Derrick Rose sustained his torn meniscus last November. Rose, Pau Gasol and Kirk Hinrich all were out for the game, Rose with his hamstring, Gasol with his calf and Hinrich after bruised ribs against the Kings Thursday. All are listed day to day with the next game Monday in Utah. The Bulls, perhaps predictably, were smothered to start against a very good Trail Blazers team, trailing 18-3 in the first six minutes against a barrage first from LaMarcus Aldridge and then Damian Lillard. The Bulls awoke enough to get within 32-21 after one and then a makeshift group of subs with Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, E’Twaun Moore, Nazr Mohammed and Tony Snell rallied the Bulls behind Mirotic, whose 11 first half points led the Bulls. The Bulls drew within 41-37 after a strong Mirotic driving finish. The Trail Blazers went back to Lillard and then Aldridge and went on an 18-2 run to take a 20-point lead before closing the half leading the Bulls 61-43 as Portland shot 61 percent to 31.9 percent for the Bulls. Then it was a disaster of a third quarter for the Bulls and the 89-65 deficit at the end was the least of it. Mike Dunleavy drew a flagrant foul, which led to a five-point Portland play with a shot at Lillard that almost caused a fight. Then Gibson hurt his ankle and had to be carried off the floor by teammates.
1. Tough to win games without Rose, Gasol and Hinrich. How’s that for penetrating analysis? The Bulls hope to have some or all back next week with a back to back in Utah and Denver and then in Boston after Thanksgiving. Taj Gibson as well after being hurt in the third quarter. X-rays were negative on his ankle.
2. Nikola Mirotic is the real thing. He throws up some very imaginative shots on the drive, but his shot is pure, he’s a matchup nightmare and strong on the boards with career highs Friday in points and rebounds. Once he learns to play in control he could be terrific.
3. So how ‘bout those ‘blazers. Not much more to say about the Bulls after a game like that in which they lost another player, let Portland get anything and anywhere they wanted and don’t even get to leave until Sunday. And it’s raining.