Fred Hoiberg is trying to figure out his team’s first-quarter woes

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The numbers tell the story — a sad, pathetic, all-too-familiar story.

The Bulls simply have been awful in the first quarter the last week.

Against the Pacers, they were outscored 27-16. A game later in San Antonio, they were down 37-15. But it only got more embarrassing Wednesday in Oklahoma City. The Bulls allowed 27 points and answered with seven. Yes, seven.

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So in the last three games — all losses, of course — the Bulls averaged 12.7 points in the first quarter and allowed 30.3.

No wonder coach Fred Hoiberg admittedly held a “very long’’ meeting with his players before practice Thursday. Now, if he only had a solution for the problem.

“[Wednesday] night, obviously, we got off to a very slow start,’’ Hoiberg said. “I thought we had three great looks at the beginning of the game. A corner three by Quincy [Pondexter], Kris Dunn missed an open pull-up, then Robin [Lopez] missed a little jump hook in the lane on a pin-down that he’s going to make nine out of 10 times.

“Then a kind of similar thing that’s been happening is we hang our heads when things aren’t going great out there. That’s the one common thing. When things aren’t going great, instead of finding a way to fight through it, we’re shutting down a little bit. That’s got to change. We’re evaluating everything, had a very long meeting [Thursday morning], watched a lot of film. Get through practice and then we’ll hopefully be able to determine how we’re going to get out of the gate.’’

Hoiberg was all but pleading with his players to toughen up and understand that adversity is going to happen, and they must overcome it.

That’s easily said, but obviously not easily done with this group.

The starting lineup has changed often, so there have been some growing pains in trying to figure out where different guys feel comfortable in the offense. But the starting lineup is going to continue to change with a rebuilding team.

It will be different Friday, with Justin Holiday back in the mix after the birth of his first child. Hoiberg has to make a decision at point guard, either sticking with Jerian Grant or going to Kris Dunn. Zach LaVine (rehabbing left ACL) is expected to start taking full contact in practice next week.

So the starting lineup is fluid, and the players have to deal with it.

“Try to move the ball a little better, move our bodies better,’’ Holiday said. “I think at times we do get stagnant, especially in that first quarter. Obviously, if we knew exactly what was needed to make that better, we would do it.

“If we miss good looks, then good. But we don’t want situations where we’re stagnant and not getting good looks and having shot-clock violations and things like that. Try to focus and lock in on what the offense has for us and do it that way.’’

The one point Holiday stressed was that the ball movement has to improve and get back to where it was in the preseason and at the start of the season.

“Maybe because we’ve had so many bad quarters, we’re maybe thinking a little too much,’’ Holiday said.

NOTE: Nikola Mirotic will not travel with the team when it heads west next week for a four-city trip. He will continue working out at the Advocate Center.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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