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Bulls lose to Pacers as forward Lauri Markkanen struggles again

The third-year forward was playing in only his second game since missing 15 in a row with an injured right pelvis, and he looked like a guy who had missed a lot of time.

There was fight in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, it was the all-too-familiar fight with the same result.

Thanks to a defense that finally decided to show up in the fourth, holding the visiting Pacers to 19 points, the Bulls at least made the game interesting, overcoming a 17-point deficit to start the quarter and cutting Indiana’s lead to six in the last minute.

But, as has been the case throughout much of the season, it was just too big a hole.

“I did think we kept playing,’’ coach Jim Boylen said. “We got it to a two-possession game, so I do give our guys credit for hanging on. Again, I think we’re in this moment where we’re working [injured] guys back in and getting used to playing with each other again and kind of fighting through it.’’

Not that the Pacers cared much about the Bulls’ problems. They earned the season sweep with a 108-102 victory and have won nine straight over the Bulls.

The loss dropped the Bulls’ record to 21-42.

And those weren’t even the most concerning numbers of the night.

It didn’t go unnoticed that Lauri Markkanen played over 22 minutes and scored only three points on 1-for-10 shooting. It was only his second game back after missing 15 with a pelvis issue, but Markkanen seemed disengaged throughout.

“A little gassed, but it’s part of the process,’’ Markkanen said. “Just trying to get my legs back. You can try to do conditioning and stuff like that, but the game is always different.’’

As for his poor shooting, Markkanen was still not getting a lot of touches, but he said he didn’t deserve them.

“In our system, just try to get to the spots I can get to,’’ Markkanen said. “When you shoot like that, it’s not supposed to come to you.’’

Softening up?

After adamantly shooting down the idea of rookie guard Coby White joining the starting lineup a few weeks ago, Boylen was singing a slightly different tune, and White should like the lyrics.

“There might be a time that it happens,’’ Boylen said. “Absolutely, there could be a time where we look at this thing and our situation, and Coby takes on a different role. We’ll see how that goes.’’

Especially if the Bulls continue losing and start shutting down players who aren’t 100 percent.

In that scenario, it would be ideal to start White and allow him to handle the point-guard duties to see how he fares against first-teamers.

Zach attack

Guard Zach LaVine missed his third consecutive game, but there was some good news on the horizon.

LaVine (left quadriceps) was scheduled to practice Saturday before the team flies to Brooklyn, and if there are no setbacks, he could return for the game Sunday against the Nets.

With LaVine down, Shaquille Harrison started in his place and had 25 points.

Beach life

Boylen was thrilled that ex-Bull Joakim Noah was back in the league with the Clippers.

He even recounted a story about how he went to visit Noah in Los Angeles one offseason when he was an assistant under Fred Hoiberg, and Noah took Boylen to the beach for some swimming.