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Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg still searching for consistent rotation

The only known Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is working with these days is the unknown.

Because Hoiberg has six players in his rotation who have two years or less of NBA experience, what he gets from night to night is almost a mystery. That’s why hooks are quick and rotations seem to be chosen out of a hat.

‘‘We’re still in the playoff hunt,’’ Hoiberg said after the Bulls’ practice Wednesday. ‘‘We’re still doing everything we can to put ourselves in position to win games and, at the same time, try to develop our young players. They’re going to be very valuable for the future of this organization.’’

For the present, though, that’s going to mean nights of frustration. The Bulls’ loss Tuesday to the Nuggets was the latest example of that.

The Bulls were in control of the game into the third quarter, but youth can betray such control at any moment. A missed assignment here, a bad shot there, then the confidence starts to slip.

The Nuggets saw that happening in the third quarter and turned an eight-point deficit into a 125-107 victory at the United Center.

‘‘That’s exactly what happened,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘We had stretches where we played pretty good. I thought the ball was really moving for the first 2½ quarters. Then it got stagnant, and then we took some forced shots that fueled their break. That was a lot of it.

‘‘The shot selection wasn’t nearly as good, and then our defensive transition, we’re playing a lot of young guys. Obviously, we’re still trying to figure out exactly how and who we’re going to play. And we’ll try to figure it out.’’

Each young player has a small window to show something on a particular night. If it’s not there, he’s yanked for the next young guy up.

‘‘That’s kind of what we’ve tried to do,’’ Hoiberg said of the search for consistency in his rotation. ‘‘Cam [Payne] got his first experience [Saturday] in Cleveland. We got Joffrey [Lauvergne] out there to end the third quarter [Tuesday]. [Rajon] Rondo has been really
good the last couple of games. We finished the game with him against Cleveland. We got Cam in there in the second half [Tuesday], and we’ll continue to try to get him those valuable minutes.’’

That might work against a lot of teams in the Eastern Conference, but it will be tougher Thursday against the Warriors at the United Center. Even with Kevin Durant sidelined with a sprained medial collateral ligament and a bone bruise in his left knee, the Warriors will pose a stern test.

If the young Bulls thought the Nuggets were able to put on a shooting clinic from outside, they haven’t seen anything yet.

‘‘Obviously, they’re the team to beat with the [offseason] addition of Durant,’’ Hoiberg said of the Warriors. ‘‘You just have to come out and have great effort for 48 minutes. If you have that, you hopefully give yourself a chance. If not, it could be a long night.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com