Chicago Bulls

Despite poor stretch, Bulls in middle of middling Eastern Conference

The Bulls have lost three straight games and seven of 10. But the Eastern Conference is the gift that keeps on giving.

Despite the poor play, the Bulls sit one game behind the Celtics and Hornets, who are tied for third in the conference. They’re also just a half-game up on the Pistons and Hawks, tied for ninth.

“Pretty much every team has gone through a stretch like we’re going through maybe with the exception of Golden State and San Antonio,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Even Cleveland had a short losing streak, a three-game skid. Some have fought out of (adversity). Some haven’t. We’ve got to be one of those teams that find a way to fight through it. I believe in these guys.”

Rotation roulette: Nikola Mirotic hasn’t played by coach’s decision the last two games, his first benching in his three NBA seasons. Hoiberg has called the rotation fluid, but Sunday’s practice featured Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio as the backup big men again.

“Niko had a good day (Sunday), came in (Saturday on an off day) and was the first guy in the gym, got in good work,” Hoiberg said. “He’s putting in extra work right now. So that’s where it starts for Niko. He’ll get another opportunity, there’s no doubt about that. Now it’s about taking advantage and playing well and going from there.”

Bombs away: The Bulls have been outscored from the 3-point line in nine straight games and 13 of 14. But while Doug McDermott, the team’s best outside shooter, said he doesn’t feel extra pressure to produce, he does feel an obligation to take more shots.

“I’ve got to quit turning them down,” he said. “I need to trust myself that they’ll fall. (Rajon) Rondo’s been doing a great job of finding me. We put in some stuff (Sunday) that really got the ball moving, and I think there will be more opportunities for me and guys like Niko and Isaiah (Canaan) and our other three-point shooters to get looks. They’re going to start falling.”

Layups: Taj Gibson participated fully in Sunday’s practice after leaving Friday’s loss early with a bruised right hip. … Michael Carter-Williams participated in the non-contact portion of practice, his first since injuring his left knee and left wrist on Oct. 31. “If he doesn’t have any swelling, he’ll be back to contact soon,” Hoiberg said, meaning in the wrist, which was more serious than the knee injury.

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