As much as the Bulls have a reputation to 'playing down' to competition, it's usually not to the level where they won't take the obvious schedule breaks at their feet. The Brooklyn Nets had lost 5 straight, were 7-20 overall, 1-12 on the road, and had just played the day before.
Meanwhile, the Bulls would theoretically be expected to put on a solid performance given their 2-game losing streak and hugging-out-session the past 2 days.
And actually I'm not sure the effort was totally lacking as much as the Nets shot the ball extremely well and the Bulls found themselves in too deep of a hole, ultimately succumbing to a 105-102 loss. The Nets went ice cold down the stretch of this game to finish at 45%, but were shooting over 50% for much of it and over 55% in the first half. This is statistically the 2nd-worst offense in the league, and they could've had an even better night if they weren't doing Nets things like having to play Bargnani so much and throwing the ball around (Jarrett Jack with 4 of his team's 14 turnovers), but they were very good from midrange and good enough from three, with Wayne Ellington and Bojan Bogdanovic in particular having good-for-them shooting performances.
They also punished the Bulls inside, with Thaddeus Young getting the first 6 points of the game to finish with 16, and Brook Lopez with a team-high 21. They won the rebounding battle even though the Bulls went with their jumbo lineup of Mirotic at SF (Tony Snell received a DNP), and even when going cold late were able to secure enough loose balls to keep the Bulls from taking back the lead. I suppose some of that is effort, but it's a bit of an easy excuse.
But obviously even if the Bulls eeked out another win, it wouldn't have been much to celebrate. The first half saw the Bulls running a bit more than usual which portended good things even though the Nets hot shooting was keeping the Bulls' deficit around the 2-6 point margin. Bobby Portis received more significant minutes and ran the floor well, though he could stand to reign in his shot-taking, going 3-9 in 14 overall minutes. Behind a barrage of 3 point shooting the game was tied in the 2nd quarter but they went into half down 58-53. To the Nets!
The only thing keeping the Bulls close in the 3rd quarter was Pau Gasol trading baskets with the Nets front line in a mid-range exhibition, and when Gasol sat the Nets went on a 13-2 run to get the lead over double-digits. The Nets turned the tables by running on the Bulls, who found themselves crossmatched and ill-equipped to run out to shooters. If that failed Brooklyn would keep pounding the ball inside. Injury was added to insult as Joakim Noah left the game with a bad-looking shoulder injury, and though the Bulls had a couple spurts in the 4th to get the deficit down to 4 they never found themselves with a chance to tie the game.
Jimmy Butler LEAD (hahaha) the team with 24 points on 11-20 shooting, though he was making plays in transition he also was definitely keeping his recent stretch of 'my-turn' possessions. You could argue that the Bulls offense is so bad that Butler 'taking over' may be their most efficient option, especially late, though he was blocked by Brook Lopez in a critical possession where everyone knew he was shooting, and hit his only 3 of the game (he was 0-5 otherwise) at the final buzzer in a garbage moment. Gasol finished with 20 on 8-16 shooting, McDermott bounced back a bit after knee trouble hurt him last game (11 points on 9 shots, though he was targeted defensively again), Derrick Rose was little help especially in the second half (3-11 shooting, and he and Pau each had 3 turnovers), and Nikola Mirotic certainly did not look comfortable on the wing, shooting 3-9 with a couple 30-footers for old times' sake.
The Bulls have a true break now, not playing again until heading to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Christmas Day.