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Defense remains wretched in Bulls’ 102-89 loss to Magic

Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol (16) is defended by Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.) ORG XMIT: DOA116

JOE COWLEY

Staff Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. — It wasn’t exactly the type of response coach Fred Hoiberg was hoping to see from the Bulls in the wake of their embarrassing loss Tuesday to the Heat in Miami.

Bad defense, zero toughness, no will, no fight, no life. That’s what Bulls basketball has become.

The Bulls not only have slipped out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture with four consecutive losses, but they resemble a team that is resigned to its demise.

The latest horrific performance came in a 102-89 loss Wednesday to the Magic. It was the 15th consecutive game in which the Bulls

allowed their opponents to score 100 or more points.

So when big man Pau Gasol was asked whether the Bulls are better than their 30-30 record, he had no problem offering up a reality check.

‘‘No,’’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘‘I think the record always shows who you are.’’

But didn’t the Bulls’ front office deem this a championship-caliber roster?

‘‘At the end of the day, talent doesn’t win games,’’ Gasol said. ‘‘Sometimes it’s the little things — the togetherness, the experience and doing the right things on the floor. We’re obviously not doing them enough.

‘‘But I think the record always reflects who you are and where you deserve to be.’’

Where the Bulls are right now is on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Whether its where they

deserve to be is up for debate.

‘‘To see yourself on the outside looking in, you have to be mentally tough,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘You have to fight through these times. You can’t put your head down and feel sorry for yourself. No one else in this league is going to do that. You have to come out with great urgency, and that has to be the constant.’’

The only constants for the Bulls these days seem to be allowing 30 points in the first quarter, falling behind, then not having the manpower and fortitude to come back.

They followed that script against the Magic. They trailed 33-23 after the first quarter, then made the rest of the game a boat race they had no ability to win.

It didn’t help that Derrick Rose (16 points) went scoreless in the second half or that Gasol (12 points) scored only two points after halftime. But scoring isn’t the primary concern for the Bulls; keeping teams from scoring is.

‘‘Honestly, we’ve got a lot of holes everywhere — not getting into our coverages of the game plan, not knowing the individual tendencies of our opponents and just [lacking] a little bit of that grit to get it done,’’ forward Mike Dunleavy said when asked about the Bulls’ defensive problems. ‘‘Whether it be in the rebounding game, the post-ups, hitting people, it’s kind of all across the board.’’

If there is any cause for optimism, it’s that Jimmy Butler (strained left knee) is close to returning and that Taj Gibson’s injured right hamstring doesn’t appear to be serious. Help is on the way.

‘‘At the beginning of the year, we said we wanted to get into the playoffs,’’ Rose said. ‘‘The question has come up: ‘OK, are we trying? Are we trying?’ If we are, then we have to come out and play a lot different.’’

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Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops