For the first three games of the season, they were known as the “Comeback Nets” after rallying from behind in all three games to win or make it close. But after digging an 18-point hole in the first quarter Monday night at Barclays Center, the Nets only grew worse in a 118-88 loss to Chicago that underlined how much work they have to do to gain respectability in the NBA.

With the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, Bulls star Dwyane Wade amused himself and got a rise out of the crowd by displaying his array of crossover moves. It was that kind of embarrassing night for the Nets, who ultimately trailed by 33 in the fourth quarter, shot 34.4 percent from the field, made only 5 of 31 three-point attempts and were outrebounded 58-45.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Nets with 15 points, and they got 14 from Jeremy Lin and 13 from Brook Lopez. Those three made 16 of the 31 shots they took, but the rest of the roster shot 17-for-65. The Bulls had seven players in double figures, topped by Jimmy Butler with 22 and Nikola Mirotic with 16.

“It was poor energy right from the start,” said Lopez, who returned to the lineup after staying home from Milwaukee on Saturday for rest prescribed by the Nets’ performance team. “There’s no excuse for the way we played tonight. It’s contagious. Our first group needs to come out with the right energy. We were flat, especially defensively. [Allowing] 40 points in the first quarter is unacceptable.”

Actually, the Bulls led 38-20 at the end of the first quarter, but you get the idea. They hit seven of their first 10 shots and kept the Nets reeling from the start while shooting 57.7 percent from the field in the opening period.

“They were more aggressive,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “They came out and really got into us. We were back on our heels a little bit . . . We weren’t into the ball. They didn’t feel us at all. When they missed, they got putbacks.”

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The Nets tried to get Lopez involved early, but it seemed as if he had trouble getting into sync after sitting out a game. Asked if the Nets’ consistency might have been affected by his absence, Lopez said: “I don’t think we can attribute it to that. We had a back-to-back, and we gave ourselves a shot in both games. I don’t know if it was coming in after an off day [from practice] and just not having the same mindset and intensity. It’s something we’ll figure out.”

The Bulls’ lead grew to as much as 25 points in the second period as Isaiah Canaan scored all 13 of his first-half points, shooting 4-for-4, including three three-pointers. The Nets made a brief push in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 18 at 71-53 on Lopez’s layup. But that was as close as they got.

Lin also faulted a lack of collective energy. Asked if there was a consistency issue with Lopez going in and out of the lineup, Lin said: “I didn’t think it was a big factor tonight. Maybe it will be on other nights, but honestly, if we don’t come out with energy, it won’t matter. If you don’t play hard, you’ll get embarrassed every night. So I don’t think that factored into it tonight, but maybe other nights it might.”