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Bulls’ Nate Robinson has tough matchup against Celtics’ Rajon Rondo

Nate Robinsisn’t known as defensive stopper but he’ll need step up against Rondo. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Nate Robinson isn’t known as a defensive stopper, but he’ll need to step up against Rondo. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:36AM

The Bulls’ Nate Robinson might not have anything to say after the game Monday night against the Boston Celtics at the United Center. And that’s saying a lot for one of the NBA’s chattiest players.

If injured point guard Kirk Hinrich is unable to play, Robinson will start in his place. He likely will use all of his energy guarding Rajon Rondo, one of the league’s best point guards.

Hinrich left the Bulls’ 87-80 victory Saturday over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a strained right hip in the second quarter. Though he’ll be re-evaluated at the shootaround Monday morning, he figures to miss the game. Coach Tom Thibodeau called Hinrich day-to-day.

“I’m not trying to make it about me and him [Rondo],” Robinson said. “This is a team. We’re trying to win the game. We’re trying to beat the Celtics. It’s not me versus Rondo. It’s the Bulls versus the Celtics.”

But the likelihood is that the game could come down to that matchup.

The Celtics’ offense begins and often ends with Rondo. Thibodeau called him “an offense unto himself” several times last season.

Robinson is known for his offensive abilities, and he hasn’t disappointed since joining the Bulls in the offseason. He has scored in double figures in four of the Bulls’ five games. On Saturday, he led the team with a season-high 18 points.

Robinson’s shortcomings are on defense. Throughout Thibodeau’s coaching career, he has shown he can take poor defensive players and turn them into solid stoppers.

Having played in Boston for close to a year, Robinson had the opportunity to guard Rondo in practice and has some familiarity with him. Thibodeau thinks that could be an asset to him.

“The next guy has to get the job done,” Thibodeau said. “So Nate will be ready. Nate has been around. Nate has played against him. Rondo is a great player, but they’re a lot more than just Rondo. It’s a very talented team; it’s a very deep team.”

As he does with any of the elite players the Bulls face, Thibodeau anticipates that the Bulls will need to guard Rondo as a team.

With Rondo’s ability to get in the open court and score easily in transition, locating him when the Celtics have the ball will be a key to stopping him. Then the Bulls can slow down the speedy Rondo and get their defense set.

“He knows he’s good, and that’s the one thing that you need as a basketball player first and foremost, know that you’re capable of being a great player,” Robinson said. “And he’s understood that, and he’s been playing great.”

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