For starters, Bulls coach Billy Donovan sticking with his first unitJoe Cowleyon April 13, 2021 at 1:24 am

Since the trade deadline changed the roster and Donovan finally settled on a starting unit, the results in that opening quarter have been better. That’s why Donovan wants to stay the course with the group for now.

The sample size is still small for Billy Donovan, but the Bulls coach isn’t just relying on the analytics in his decision-making process.

He’s relying on what he’s seen.

That’s why for now the current starting lineup will remain the current starting lineup, even with some shaky moments by the group since the roster was completely altered at the Mar. 25 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, and I know with this group it’s been maybe somewhat of a small sample size because there haven’t been a lot of games, but actually that lineup has not been bad starting,’’ Donovan said on Monday. “It’s been OK. … I don’t feel like we’re getting out to these starts where we’re digging ourselves out of holes.’’

He actually has a point, even with a handful of bad losses for this starting lineup.

The lineup was actually short-handed the first few games in which Nikola Vucevic was made the new man in the middle, that’s why there was a 33-20 first-quarter deficit in San Antonio and then a 34-29 deficit at Golden State.

Zach LaVine missed the game against the Suns, but that first-quarter deficit was just two, 39-37.

With LaVine back in the starting lineup against Utah, the first-quarter deficit was just 26-25 and then 28-25 against the Nets – a game the Bulls eventually won.

Against the Pacers, Raptors and Hawks, however, the starting unit built first-quarter leads, averaging 32 points per game in that stanza, while allowing 26.7 points.

Has it been perfect?

Absolutely not, but it’s definitely been sturdier than some of the holes the previous starting rotations put Donovan & Co. in before the changes were made.

“Maybe like a little bit earlier in the year, we obviously got hit with some injuries and some guys out, but once we came out of the All-Star Break I think that was the time we made a lineup change,’’ Donovan said. “I don’t feel that’s the case right now just looking at some of the numbers and just watching us play.’’

Temple run

Veteran Garrett Temple has now missed eight game was an injured hamstring, but there was at least some good news for the guard.

The major obstacle that was holding him back was his inability to get in some straight-ahead running and sprinting pain-free, and he cleared that the last few days. What Donovan wants to now see is how he holds up in a few contact practices, which will come this week.

“The hard part for him is just because the four games in five nights, we’ve had very, very limited contact – we’ve had no contact – he needs some contact before we take another step,’’ Donovan said.

Closing time

Forward Troy Brown Jr. doesn’t know how many closing opportunities he’ll get the remaining 19 games, and that’s why getting that shot in the loss to the Timberwolves meant so much.

Acquired in the three-way deal with the Wizards and Boston, Brown is seeing his stock rise, which included his first impactful moment with his new team, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 22 minutes of work.

“I’m just trying to make the most out of my minutes,’’ Brown 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.’’

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