Nikola Mirotic’s continued success helps the Bulls to a fourth-straight win

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CHICAGO – Maybe December will now be the month of Mirotic.

Typically that was reserved for March, when the Bulls’ forward tended to find his groove just as the season was beginning to wind down. Now Nikola is turning it up just as his fourth campaign with the Bulls is beginning.

Following a 24-point performance in his third game back after getting smacked in the face by Bobby Portis, Mirotic topped it with his effort on Wednesday night against the Jazz. Thrust again into the starting lineup with Lauri Markkanen a late scratch, the forward scored a team-high 29 points in helping the Bulls to a 103-100 win at the United Center.

Funny the most recent strong effort by Mirotic came on “Star Wars Night” at the United Center, because this appears to be the return of a player the Bulls hoped they’d get when the signed him in 2014.

Trapped in the throes of a ten-game losing streak when he debuted last Friday, Mirotic has helped the Bulls to a season-high four game winning streak that’s a bit stunning on a number of fronts.

Nikola is the biggest surprise of that, showing no rust after missing the first 23 games of the season. He followed his 9-for-14 performance against the Celtics with an 11-for-18 shooting effort against the Jazz Wednesday night, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc and a team-high nine rebounds as well.

In four games, the forward is averaging 19.5 points at 5.8 rebounds.

Locked in a tight contest most of the way, Mirotic gave the Bulls the lead for good with a stepback jumper with 4:42 to make it 92-90. From there out it was guard Kris Dunn who helped to lockdown the win down the stretch. His five points in the final 1:39 gave the Bulls a three-point lead and they were able to hold off Utah the rest of the way, including a last-second heave by Donovan Mitchell, to improve to 7-20 on the season.

It pulls the Bulls out of last place in the NBA, which now belongs to the Atlanta Hawks. The guy who just returned to the lineup after nearly two months is a big reason why this rebuilding team is showing hope for the first time all season.