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Bulls embarrassed in Boston as guard Zach LaVine is held in check all night

BOSTON — Low-effort, embarrassing defeats seemed to be behind the Bulls. If a blowout loss to the Warriors on Oct.  29 was rock bottom, at least it felt as though the players had acknowledged their failures, picked themselves up and committed to being something better.

After that loss, they fell by one point in overtime against the Nuggets, had a solid showing against the Pacers and even picked up wins over the Knicks and Cavaliers.

Then there was Wednesday. And just like that, embarrassment was back.

In losing 111-82 to the Celtics at the TD Garden, the Bulls slipped to 4-11 on the season and also slipped back into terrible habits on both ends of the floor.

“They came out and hit us in the mouth in the second quarter,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “And then, a huge thing in this league is finding a way to fight through adversity and playing through the tough times, and we obviously didn’t do that.”

Making the loss even more of a head-scratcher was how well the starting unit played at the tip. The Bulls led 24-19 after the first quarter, were shooting 4-for-6 from three-point range, had outrebounded the Celtics (8-6) and were executing the game plan to perfection.

Until they weren’t.

As good as the Bulls were in the first quarter, it all went out the window in the second, as the Celtics outscored them 32-11, taking advantage of their seven turnovers and their hanging heads.

By the time the Bulls stumbled into the locker room at halftime, they were down 51-35 with little hope of climbing out.

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In one sequence in the third quarter, Jabari Parker missed a baseline jumper, then slowly jogged down the floor behind the play as the Celtics easily scored on a five-on-four transition basket to go up 56-37. It was an uninspired effort for a $20  million-a-year player trying to reboot his career with his hometown team.

“Again, that’s the thing about trying to find a way to fight through the tough times,” Hoiberg said of that play. “You’ve got to do the right thing out there when those types of situations happen, and we didn’t do that well at all [Wednesday], and have to get better.”

Yes, the Bulls are undermanned, but that shouldn’t determine effort, veteran Justin Holiday said.

“Nope,” he said. “Not an excuse.”

Almost forgotten in the defeat was the end of guard Zach LaVine’s 15-game streak of scoring at least 20 points. He finished with just 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting. While he didn’t shoot well, he also was facing a Celtics defense bent on double-teaming him and making other Bulls players beat them.

Maybe that’s why LaVine wasn’t overly frustrated afterward.

“I don’t allow myself to get frustrated,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can. I’m trying to play the game the right way. They were blitzing the pick-and-roll a lot, so I was trying to hit the pocket. I wasn’t trying to force some shots, but I could have been more aggressive. It’s tough. We’ve got to find a way to put the ball in the hoop. We’ve got to find something, because if I’m not getting 25 or 30, it’s not looking very good.”