Bulls lose to Brooklyn, and Bobby Portis takes the Nets’ antics personally
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Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine and Antonio Blakeney wore T-shirts with sport coats and jeans. Paul Zipser went with a more traditional shirt and tie.
Lauri Markkanen stayed in his hooded red game warmups, and Robin Lopez took his usual place — sitting on the court near the Bulls’ bench — in full uniform.
It was a tanking fashion show at its finest — and it worked. In what was a must-lose game at this point of the season, the Bulls did just that, falling to the Nets 124-96 at the United Center.
The result dropped the Bulls into a tie with the Nets for the seventh-worst record in the league with two games left in the regular season. Even better news is that they have to travel to New York for another game Monday against the Nets.
As usual, coach Fred Hoiberg wasn’t interested in any such talk.
‘‘We’re going to try to compete at a high level,’’ Hoiberg said of the Bulls’ mindset in the final two games. ‘‘I know our guys will play hard and play with passion. That’s what we’re asking of our team right now. They’re going out to compete to win. That’s the makeup of a player; that’s what their job is.’’
The Bulls’ lineup left much to be desired. Hoiberg started Cameron Payne, David Nwaba, Justin Holiday (15 points), Bobby Portis (18) and Cristiano Felicio (14). Jerian Grant (13), Sean Kilpatrick (20), Ryan Arcidiacono and Omer Asik came off the bench.
‘‘We’re putting guys in positions they’ve never been in their careers,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘I’ve been really pleased our guys are playing with effort, regardless of the situation.’’
Effort, yes. But the execution was a problem against the Nets. The Bulls struggled on defense again, allowing a franchise-record 24 three-pointers. That was one shy of tying an NBA record.
And the laughing and joking from the Nets’ bench didn’t sit well with Portis.
‘‘For sure,’’ Portis said when he was asked if he took the Nets’ antics personally. ‘‘We’re down players, but that can’t happen. [Saturday] wasn’t our night, but we get to play against them again Monday.
‘‘Personally, I can’t wait to play. You know, them laughing and things like that. You can go out there and joke around, have some fun, but we need to do some things they did to beat us and be the tougher team.’’
Hoiberg said he likely will play Markkanen in each of the last two games but again will limit him to 22 to 24 minutes. Markkanen also hasn’t been playing late in games, especially when there’s losing to do.
Still, the Bulls want to see Markkanen finish strong in the minutes they do give him.
‘‘I think with Lauri right now, he’s playing with such a good rhythm,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘He’s playing with great efficiency, and guys are doing such a good job of finding him. And he’s playing with a high level of confidence.
‘‘With us, we’ve been doing a really good job of playing with movement these last few games, and everybody is benefitting from that. I think more specifically Lauri because of the way he’s shooting the basketball, attacking the rim and just understanding when to attack the close-out and when to shoot it.’’