Bulls win fourth straight, as Fred Hoiberg thumbs nose at tanking idea

Coach Fred Hoiberg and his players refuse to appease the masses these days.

Hoiberg is well aware of the front office’s plan to develop the young players but lose enough games to ensure that they have the most Ping-Pong balls in the upcoming lottery.

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He also knows that’s what most of the fan base expects.

But there’s only one résumé with those wins and losses attached to it, so excuse Hoiberg if he doesn’t want to be overly cooperative in the tanking process.

“It’s never been . . . we try to shut everything out about that,’’ Hoiberg said when asked about victories damaging the rebuild. “We’re not thinking that way, I can promise you that.’’

That approach was apparent Wednesday as the Bulls (7-20) won their fourth consecutive game, beating the Jazz 103-100 at the United Center.

Not bad for a team that was mired in a 10-game losing streak just over a week ago.

“After some early games where we played well, had a couple of setbacks, a couple of low-effort games that can’t happen,’’ Hoiberg said. “Whether we win or lose, you go in after the game and say we were the harder-playing team, and we’ve done that for a majority of the last 10 or 12 games. We’ve played with great passion, great energy.’’

That wasn’t the only message Hoiberg continued to stress.

He has done his best to insulate his players from the outside tanking talk, and it seems to be working.

“It doesn’t really even bother me at all,’’ point guard Kris Dunn said. “I just try to go out there and play the game. That’s what we’re doing right now. That kind of talk, you can’t really control it.

‘‘That’s the media and the fans and everybody else. That’s on them. You can’t really control what people do and say.’’

Dunn overcame a shaky shooting night to play hero down the stretch against the Jazz (13-15).

With the Bulls up by two, Dunn’s midrange jumper provided some breathing room and forced the Jazz to call a timeout with 22 seconds left.

Utah answered with a quick basket by Rudy Gobert, then played the foul game, putting Dunn on the line with 14.4 seconds left.

Dunn split the pair, giving Utah an opening.

It closed, however, when Rodney Hood missed a game-tying three-pointer and David Nwaba split a pair from the free-throw line.

After Rookie of the Year front-runner Donovan Mitchell scored on a quick layup — giving him 32 points — Justin Holiday split a pair, forcing Utah to throw up a Mitchell prayer at the horn that was not answered.

Meanwhile, almost lost in the free-throw contest at the end was Nikola Mirotic, who scored 29 points. The Bulls are 4-0 since his return.

“Niko’s back,’’ Dunn said with a laugh, mimicking Mirotic’s new catchphrase.

Guess who wasn’t laughing?

Mirotic reiterated that he’s a difference-maker, whether people want to believe it or not.

“What do you think?’’ Mirotic said to one reporter who asked if his return and the winning were a coincidence. “Some of you guys thought I was joking, but I was not joking. I was very, very serious.

“With me back, we have more chances now.’’

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