NEW YORK — Coach Fred Hoiberg sounded a little exasperated after the Bulls came out flat in the second half and lost to the Brooklyn Nets 104-87 on Monday at Barclays Center. But there was no real mystery about this one.
The Bulls benched Zach LaVine against a beatable, struggling team that had lost eight in a row and 12 of the last 13 and inserted a rusty Justin Holiday to give them their eighth different starting lineup in the last nine games.
So it wasn’t a big surprise that the Bulls had one good quarter in them — outscoring the Nets 32-21 in the second, including 11-0 in the final 2:24 of the half to take a 51-49 lead. But that was it. With all the momentum they could hope for, the Bulls came out sluggish in the third quarter, as the Nets (20-41) scored the first nine points for a 58-51 lead just 2:06 into the second half and were up 73-60 with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
And once they were down, the Bulls (20-40) had no response. While LaVine was sitting, Holiday played for the first time in 12 days, scoring four points and shooting 1-for-11 from the field.
“The end of the first half was great,” Hoiberg said. ‘‘Then we came out so sluggish, with no energy. Adversity hit, and we got stagnant and quit playing. That’s just something that’s got to be a constant — playing through the good times and the bad, handling adversity well. You gotta keep playing through the tough times. We did not do that well tonight.”
Oh, well. The Bulls lost for the third consecutive time since reworking their lineup to “evaluate” their inexperienced players. Backup guard Cam Payne scored two points on 1-for-10 shooting. Center Cristiano Felicio was a negative factor, scoring four points on 2-for-3 shooting with three rebounds, one assist and no blocked shots. David Nwaba, who had scored 21 and 16 points in the first two games as a starter in the new-look lineup, had six points and took four shots.
“Just one of those games, I guess,” Holiday said. “We didn’t bring the juice. We just didn’t hold up our end. We have to continue to play together and play hard, especially at the defensive end. We’re still learning to do that consistently.”
At least foundation pieces Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn were bright spots.
Dunn scored a game-high 23 points and shot 9-for-15 from the field. Markkanen broke out of his shooting slump with 19 points and went 8-for-18 from the field.
But after scoring 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the first half, Markkanen was shut down in the second half (four points, 1-for-7 shooting).
“I think my teammates did a really good job in the first half, especially getting [the ball] in the right spots,” Markkanen said. “Second half, they did the same thing, but I wasn’t able to make them. I’m glad I got a couple to fall. But, hopefully, we get better.”
“I loved Lauri’s approach tonight,” Hoiberg said. “He was looking for his shot.
‘‘Our guys did a really good job. It’s good to see him knock down a three; it’s been awhile since he had done that. Hopefully, this is a game that can kick-start him down the stretch.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.