Bulls continue to look soft in fourth quarter in loss to Cavaliers

Year 3 of the rebuild has been filled with problems, none bigger than Lauri Markkanen spending most of the fourth quarter on the bench because of inconsistent play on both ends of the floor.

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The Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen drives around the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson Wednesday night in Cleveland.

The Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen drives around the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson Wednesday night in Cleveland.

Tony Dejak/AP

CLEVELAND — Fourth quarters haven’t been kind to the Bulls this season.

Sure, there was the game against the Grizzlies, but those were the Grizzlies.

The road hasn’t exactly embraced the Bulls, either.

Yeah, they won in Memphis last week, but, again, it was Memphis.

The Bulls’ organization, which announced its playoff aspirations on media day, has run into a cruel NBA reality early in the season: You’ve still got to play the games.

The 1-4 Bulls watched a two-point lead after three quarters disappear within minutes in a 117-111 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

It was only the second victory for the rebuilding Cavaliers, and they just took it from the Bulls.

Like the Knicks on Monday, the Cavaliers simply were tougher at the end of the game. The Bulls offered up little resistance.

Bulls forward Thaddeus Young was still offering up hope, however.

“It’s a lot of different things that we have to go back to the drawing board on and look at,’’ Young said. “Overall, the teams that we’ve lost to, we feel we were in the games with them, and we should have beaten them. But we kept letting it slip away, and it’s just a growing process. It’s growing pains that we have to go through.’’

There was plenty of blame to go around, but Lauri Markkanen, who came into the season with huge expectations, is running out of room to hide.

He and Zach LaVine were deemed the pillars that Year 3 of the rebuild would rest on. Well, one pillar was on the bench for most of the important minutes in the fourth quarter. That’s a problem.

“I thought Thad was doing a good job,’’ coach Jim Boylen said when asked about Markkanen sitting on the bench at crunch time. “Just like I rode with Coby [White] in Memphis, I rode with Thad here.’’

Markkanen opened up the season with a huge game in Charlotte, scoring 35 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, but has disappeared since.

Even Boylen admitted that he constantly has to stay on Markkanen to be more aggressive.

“[I have to talk to Markkanen] a lot,’’ Boylen said. “Stay aggressive, get yourself on the boards, handle the ball in transition, get yourself going.’’

Translation: Markkanen must do more.

He played 27 minutes, went 4-for-12 from the field for 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds but appeared lethargic on way too many defensive possessions.

That’s why Young got so much playing time in the fourth quarter. He is a willing defender on a team that continues to struggle in that department.

“I’ve been on teams like this before,’’ Young said. “And I’ve been on teams that carry over what we do in practice to games, and then we figured it out along the way and found a way to get ourselves in the mix. It’s still early in the season, and we can still get ourselves in the mix.’’

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