Short-handed Bulls down to two games after their loss to the 76ers

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It might have looked like a tanking kind of starting lineup, but that’s not Bulls coach Jim Boylen’s way. He made that very clear when he announced his starting unit Saturday.

‘‘I think they owe them to play their butts off,’’ Boylen said when asked about the approach non-playoff teams should take with teams such as the 50-win 76ers at this point of the season. ‘‘I think they owe it to compete. Iron sharpens iron.

‘‘Competitive people relish these moments, man. It’s a chance to compete. [Former Rockets coach] Rudy [Tomjanovich] used to say, ‘As long as we’re keeping score, we’re going to try to win.’ ’’

They kept score against the 76ers, and the Bulls tried to win. Neither worked out in their favor.

Even with a career-high 29 points from reserve JaKarr Sampson, the undermanned Bulls (22-58) lost to the 76ers 116-96. It was their sixth loss in their last seven games.

Not that it came as any shock, considering the roster the short-handed Bulls continue to march out there.

It was once again G-Leaguers Rawle Alkins and Walt Lemon Jr. joining Wayne Selden Jr., Shaq Harrison and Robin Lopez.

The 76ers, meanwhile, used the game as a playoff tuneup for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who played limited minutes, as well as a night to rest former Bulls star Jimmy Butler (back).

So where was the rest of the Bulls’ roster? Basically in limbo.

Lauri Markkanen (rapid heart rate), Zach LaVine (right patellar tendon), Otto Porter Jr. (right shoulder) and Kris Dunn (back) again were in street clothes, but Boylen only would rule out Markkanen for the last two games.


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‘‘We haven’t made a final decision that I can talk about — no, sir,’’ Boylen said about the three other injured starters.

When asked why the Bulls are waiting to announce all four of them are done for what’s left of the season, Boylen said, ‘‘I’m not sure.’’

What he was sure about was that Markkanen has been working out with heart monitors on and that all the tests he has had to date have come back negative.

‘‘We’re very positive about where he’s at and where he’ll be,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘He’s in great spirits. They’re still doing some daily evaluations of where he’s at.’’

Draft dodger

Boylen admitted he hasn’t done much work on the upcoming draft class, explaining that the players in front of him have been his sole focus. That will change soon.

Boylen said that once exit interviews with his players are completed this week, he will be playing catch-up for the draft. That means watching film, reading through all the reports the scouting staff has gathered and reaching out to college coaches on the phone to talk about individual players.

‘‘My staff is off at 4 o’clock Friday until [April] 29th at 10 a.m.,’’ Boylen said of his immediate to-do list. ‘‘But I’ll be here next week if anybody needs me, and I’ll be here working.’’

All eyes on May

Now that the Bulls are locked into finishing with the fourth-worst record in the league, the hope is that they can hit on their 12.5 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery May 14.

LaVine said he definitely will be watching.

‘‘Yeah, because you’re interested in what’s going on with your team,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I don’t have any control over what’s going to happen, but you’re interested to see how things are going to unfold over the next four or five months.’’

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