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Bulls again seem to forget that third quarter matters in loss to Wizards

Yes, the Bulls are undermanned, but their third-quarter no-show was inexcusable. They have lost six consecutive games and enter the All-Star break spiraling.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal shoots over the Bulls; Tomas Satoransky Tuesday night.
Wizards guard Bradley Beal shoots over the Bulls; Tomas Satoransky Tuesday night.
Nick Wass/AP

WASHINGTON — Third-quarter numbness is nothing new for the Bulls.

No one has been able to answer why it has happened all season, but it hasn’t been a good look for the players or the coaching staff.

Tuesday in the nation’s capital was just the latest example.

In part because of another meltdown in the quarter, the Bulls lost to the Wizards 126-114 and entered the All-Star break with six consecutive losses and a 19-36 record.

‘‘We just gave [the Wizards] everything they wanted in the third quarter,’’ said guard Zach LaVine, who scored 41 points and shot 15-for-21 from the field, including 8-for-11 from three-point range. ‘‘There were even possessions where Brad [Beal] had three-point attempts, missed them, and they got the tip out of bounds and got the next one. They just got so many opportunities. Transition, exploited our defense, played it well. You can’t keep up with that.’’

So why does it keep happening?

‘‘I don’t know,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘If we would know, we would have fixed it by now. I guess we’re still working on it.’’

Not that LaVine didn’t do everything he could to send the Bulls into the break with a good taste in their mouths. He scored 19 of his points in the fourth quarter, including a 5-for-5 effort from three-point range that showed he just might be ready for the three-point contest Saturday at the United Center.

‘‘Tried to get it going,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘Once you get locked in . . . I have the confidence to take any shot.’’

Even undermanned, the Bulls cut into an early 17-point deficit and trailed by only seven at the half. Then the bell rang for the third quarter, and a standing eight-count soon followed.

Not only did the Wizards force the Bulls into a ridiculous 11 turnovers in the quarter, but they outscored them 31-20. They did most of their damage against the starters.

‘‘I didn’t think we weren’t trying,’’ coach Jim Boylen said of the third quarter. ‘‘That was disappointing, and you can’t continue to do that.’’

There was some typical fight in the fourth quarter, but some holes are just too deep to climb out of. The Bulls got as close as six when LaVine made a three-pointer with 1:54 left, but the Wizards sealed the victory on a three-pointer by Ish Smith and a three-point play by Moritz Wagner.

The one question Boylen was pressed on after the game was why he didn’t use rookie rim protector Daniel Gafford, especially with the Wizards scoring 62 points in the paint.

‘‘He was available, which was good, but I didn’t play him,’’ Boylen said.

After being pressed several more times, Boylen admitted Gafford’s injured right ankle is still an issue. He suffered the injury last week against the Raptors and returned to the game, but he obviously was hobbling. He hasn’t played since.

Gafford was asked about the ankle and whether he should have returned to the game against the Raptors, but he said he didn’t regret his decision to play on it.

‘‘I wanted to come out and try and help my team,’’ Gafford said matter-of-factly. ‘‘I don’t regret it all.’’