NEW YORK — Coach Jim Boylen always has been crystal clear about what he expects from his players.
But what he’s actually getting on a consistent basis is altogether different.
“What I look at is decisions,’’ Boylen said Tuesday. “How many good decisions did we make? How many things did we do that we’re working on, trying to get better at? Does it always translate into a bucket or a play we score? It doesn’t always work out that way, but are we making good decisions and improving? Are we honoring the things that we value?
“That’s what I’m coaching. The decisions, the plays inside the play, executing.’’
For spells against the Nets, the Bulls did execute.
They scored 117 points, which is an accomplishment in itself for this team. Zach LaVine finished with 26, Jabari Parker showed life off the bench and closed out the game and Lauri Markkanen was a matchup nightmare as Boylen used him at center late in the game.
But they couldn’t execute with consistency or avoid sleepy quarters in the 122-117 loss to the Nets. The Bulls allowed Brooklyn to outscore them 33-25 in the third quarter, and that proved costly.
“I thought we started the [second] half poorly,’’ Boylen said. “They scored four points right away. We missed a couple of assignments, and then you give them a little hope, give them a little life.
‘‘We talk about winning those first five minutes, and we didn’t do that.’’
Boylen also talks to the players about having a team down and keeping them down. It’s another aspect this group hasn’t mastered.
“How do you step on them? You guard,’’ Boylen said. “You make them come through you, and you don’t turn it over. How do we instill that? I think you show it [on film], we talk about it and we focus on getting stops.’’
That focus wasn’t there when the Bulls (11-40) needed it most.
They cut the lead to four with 1:12 left, then gave up a foul and two free throws. LaVine missed a three-pointer with 47.9 seconds left, and Brooklyn made him pay with two more free throws. Markkanen made a three-pointer to cut the deficit to five, but it was too little too late.
As Boylen pointed out, if the Bulls had taken care of business in the third quarter after building a 54-50 halftime lead, maybe they would’ve found themselves in a different situation late in the game.
Regardless, it was quite a day for Markkanen.
First, he was named to the World Team for the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend, then he had a career-high 19 rebounds to go along with 18 points.
“Yeah, I just try to do whatever I can to help the team, and we need toughness,’’ Markkanen said. “I think everybody has to step up their game, and I’m trying to do the same thing.’’
As far as the Rising Stars game, Boylen seemed more excited about it than Markkanen.
“I’m very happy for Lauri,’’ Boylen said. “He’s got the respect of the league, and that’s awesome for him, awesome for the Bulls. Anytime a guy can go to All-Star [Weekend] and be a part of it, I think it’s a learning moment, and I think it’s something you go to and realize, ‘Hey, I’d like to be one of these guys someday on the big team.’ ’’