Bulls

Bulls drop third straight in lethargic loss to hapless Nets

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Bulls drop third straight in lethargic loss to hapless Nets

Joakim Noah yelled for Aaron Brooks to locate him wide open off an inbounds pass but all looked to be well once Taj Gibson had an easy floater inside, and an easier tip in.

But both shots went awry as the Brooklyn Nets danced downcourt after the ball bounced out of bounds.

After all the feel-good rhetoric of Monday morning made everyone believe an easy win over the Eastern Conference’s second-worst team was upcoming, the Bulls’ most recent history and bad habits suggested otherwise.

They played with fire at home yet again and got burned, this time a 105-102 loss at the United Center for their third straight loss.

“It’s a bad, bad loss,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, in the understatement of the night.

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Suddenly the four-game winning streak looks worlds away and what’s worse, they could be without Joakim Noah for a considerable amount of time after he hurt his left shoulder reaching in on an Andrea Bargnani shot in the third quarter.

What’s more, the issue isn’t about offense or pace or embracing Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls were bullied on their home floor by a team that didn’t seem intent on winning, but the more the night went on the more confident the woeful Brooklyn Nets became.

“It was defense. We had no togetherness at all,” Hoiberg said. “We had no toughness. When we finally did get some stops they would get the rebound.”

The Nets grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, including nine from Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. Without Noah on the floor, the Nets feasted on the glass late, even after the Bulls rebounded from an 81-69 deficit midway through the third quarter.

The energy was great when he was on the floor but without him it seemed non-existent, as the Bulls only led one time during the evening, late in the second quarter when they woke up and made a run.

But they went back to the snooze button soon as halftime ended, allowing the Nets to dictate tempo and barely put any pressure on the visitors defensively on the way to giving up more than 100 points for the 11th time, and they’re 1-10 in such matters.

[MORE: Noah leaves Monday's game early with shoulder injury]

“The biggest thing was we would help and we wouldn’t be there for the next guy,” Hoiberg said. “We were good at that for awhile. We’ll get back to it tomorrow and make improvements. If not it could get ugly, Oklahoma City on Christmas.”

Jimmy Butler scored 24 and Pau Gasol 20, as the former made biting comments following Saturday night’s loss in New York to the Knicks about needing to be coached harder.

“We were missing a lot of parts of the game tonight,” Gasol said. “A sense of urgency. We cruised for most of the game. That’s when we have our back against the wall, we turn it up and try to give ourselves a chance. But sometimes it’s too late.”

Apparently, they’re in need of plenty of things across the board as the energy lacked and they couldn’t put together quality possessions even as the Nets tried to donate them the ballgame.

The Nets grabbed six offensive rebounds in the fourth after shooting 25 percent, making just six field goals, clearly leaving the door open for a comeback. The Bulls only scored four more points in the fourth, with Butler scoring 10.

Derrick Rose scored eight with five assists on just three of 11 shooting, and Taj Gibson scored 10 with nine rebounds and four assists.

The lineup change putting Nikola Mirotic at small forward in place of Tony Snell in order to free up time for rookie Bobby Portis had mixed results as Portis scored 11 with five rebounds while Mirotic again struggled to find a rhythm offensively, unable to hit open shots with the floor spread.

But Mirotic’s struggles only mirror the Bulls’ overall issues at this point, as the team tumbles closer and closer to the .500 mark as we get closer to the new year

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

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USA TODAY

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.