Coach Billy Donovan is relying not just on analytics but on what he has seen with his own eyes. That’s why his current starting lineup — center Nikola Vucevic, forwards Thad Young and Patrick Williams and guards Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky — will remain his current starting lineup, despite some shaky moments since the Bulls gained five new players at last month’s trade deadline.
“One of the things we try and do is, after like every 10 games, maybe sit down and look at the analytical reports,” Donovan said Monday, “and I know with this group, it’s been somewhat of a small sample size because there haven’t been a lot of games, but actually, that lineup has not been bad starting. It’s been OK. . . . I don’t feel like we’re getting out to these starts where we’re [having to dig] ourselves out of holes.”
Although the Bulls have suffered a handful of bad losses, Donovan has a point. And it’s worth noting the Bulls were shorthanded for their first few games with Vucevic in the middle, which helps explain a 33-20 deficit in the first quarter against the Spurs and a 34-29 deficit against the Warriors two nights later. LaVine missed a game against the Suns on March 31 in which the Bulls had a first-quarter deficit of just two points (39-37). With him back in the starting lineup, the Bulls trailed the Jazz only 26-25 in the first quarter on April 2 and the Nets 28-25 on April 4 — a game the Bulls eventually won.
Against the Pacers, Raptors and Hawks last week, the starting unit built early leads, averaging 32 points in the first quarter while allowing an average of 26.7 points.
Has it been perfect? Absolutely not, but things definitely have been sturdier than what Donovan was getting from some previous starting rotations.
“I don’t feel [we’re in bad shape] now, just looking at some of the numbers and just watching us play,” Donovan said.
Temple turns a corner
Veteran guard Garrett Temple has missed eight games with an injured hamstring, but there’s good news: Over the last few days, he has been able to get in some straight-ahead running and sprinting without pain. Donovan wants to see how he holds up in a few contact practices this week.
“Because [we’ve played] four games in five nights, we’ve had no contact [in practice], and he needs some contact before we take another step,’’ Donovan said.
Brown seizing the moments
Forward Troy Brown Jr. doesn’t know how many closing opportunities he’ll get over the remaining 19 games, which is why getting a shot in Sunday’s loss to the Timberwolves meant so much.
Acquired in a three-way deal with the Wizards and Boston, Brown is seeing his stock rise. He scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 22 minutes Sunday — an impactful performance even if he and the Bulls couldn’t pull out a win at the end.
“I’m just trying to make the most out of my minutes,” he said. “It’s very cool that the Bulls took a chance on me. I’m just trying to work my butt off, make some shots, just making an impact on the game, all the little stuff. The shots will come. But I’m not really worried about those at the end of the day.”