Bulls collapse down stretch vs. Pacers, lose 10th straight

In a rebuilding situation, some losses can be viewed as positive as long as young players develop and ping-pong balls are secured.

There’s nothing positive about blowing a 17-point lead and posting the eighth double-digit losing streak in franchise history.

“This one hurts a lot,” said coach Fred Hoiberg, who took just two questions before ending his postgame media session after 100 seconds.

The Bulls completely melted down down the stretch of their 98-96 loss to the Pacers Wednesday night, blowing a 17-point lead for the third time in the 10-game losing streak. The Bulls scored the first basket 45 seconds after tipoff and led the entire way until Victor Oladipo’s 3-pointer with 31.1 seconds left, the night’s only lead change, that came off an unforced Denzel Valentine turnover.

After taking a 92-79 lead with 7 minutes, 14 seconds left, the Bulls went 1-for-10 with four turnovers and two free throws as the Pacers closed with a 19-4 run.

“When adversity hits, we just aren’t handling it like a mature team,” Valentine said.

For 3 ½ quarters, the Bulls were the aggressors, moving the ball, finishing their defense, getting to loose balls. Kris Dunn attacked, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and four turnovers. Valentine hit shots. David Nwaba came off the bench with his typical aggression, one of six scoring in double figures.

Then, well, the reality of a 3-20 season hit.

Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner swarmed Lauri Markkanen to block his shot and gain possession when video review upheld that Markkanen’s momentum knocked the ball out of bounds with 1:06 remaining. Valentine turned it over. Dunn missed a 20-foot stepback following Oladipo’s go-ahead 3-pointer.

And, after Oladipo split two free throws with 12.8 seconds left to offer life, Markkanen bricked a 28-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer. Offensive Execution 101, this was not.

“I had a move, had him beat, had him with the stepback, but I thought I should go to the rim,” Valentine said of his unforced turnover. “When I went to the rim, I kind of lost it a little bit. Stuff happens. I should have gone to the rim. But looking back on it, I’m definitely going to take that shot next time.”

Dunn bemoaned the inability to run the offense down the stretch.

“They jammed me from the ball,” he said. “We didn’t get the looks that we wanted.”

For those who are curious — and still reading — the franchise record is 16 straight losses during a 2000-01 season that featured Hoiberg as a player. Until the Bulls can prove to close games, that watch remains on.

“It’s a really, really hard game because we had control for the majority of it and played really good, hard, unselfish basketball,” Hoiberg said. “Guys are down. I’m proud of the effort guys came out with. We’ll have a good film session, try to figure out how to close out games.”

kcjohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kcjhoop

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