Bulls

Bulls pull off key loss in Brooklyn despite Lauri Markkanen’s rookie milestone

NEW YORK — Despite playing most of the fourth quarter with (insert names of G League guard, backup guard, journeyman wing and bad-contract big) and, of course, Bobby Portis, the Bulls played with great (effort or fight, depending on what kind of mood coach Fred Hoiberg is in) before losing to (insert opponent).

An all-too-familiar read?

Yep, and it’s the way the Bulls want it.

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With a 114-105 loss to the Nets on Monday night in Brooklyn — their 10th loss in their last 13 games — the Bulls again have the seventh-worst record in the NBA, improving their chances for the draft lottery in May.

The loss dropped the Bulls to 27-54 with one game left. With the Nets winning and the Knicks losing, the Bulls are now a game worse than both of those teams.

Just don’t expect Hoiberg to sell it as a purposeful loss in any way.

“I thought we really went out and competed at a high level,” he said. “I thought we had great effort for 48 minutes.

“We’re obviously putting a lot of guys in a lot of different positions that they have not been in during the course of the year, but I thought each and every guy that stepped on the floor competed at a high level. That’s what it’s all about right now.”

For rookie forward Lauri Markkanen, it was about slightly more than that. Although he struggled with a 3-for-14 shooting night in his return to the starting lineup, his six rebounds allowed him to become the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand in 1999-2000 to score at least 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Hoiberg, who played with Brand that season. “[Markkanen is] such a complete player, and he’s a guy that puts a lot of time and effort into his craft.’’

Markkanen was most proud of the rebounds, not because he matched Brand’s mark, but because of doubts that he had the physicality to hit a number like that as a rookie.

“I mean, I don’t think it’s enough, but at least it’s 500,” Markkanen said. “I feel like that’s what people were doubting me for, that I can’t rebound. So I took that personally and just tried to do my best at it.

“I take a lot of pride and try and do what I can in rebounding, so I think that feels pretty cool to accomplish that — but not satisfied. I don’t play for stats. If you play the right way, those will follow.”

What follows now for the Bulls will be interesting. They end the season Wednesday at the United Center against the Pistons. What lineups do they actually go with?

Hoiberg started Markkanen, David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio, Cam Payne and Justin Holiday against the Nets, but in crunch time of the fourth quarter, he went with a lot of Ryan Arcidiacono, Jerian Grant, Sean Kilpatrick, Felicio and Portis.

With guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine already shut down for the season, will Hoiberg sit Markkanen to help facilitate one last loss?

Markkanen hopes not.

“I’m a competitor, so I’m trying to win every time that I step on the court,” he said.