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‘Reserve MVP’ Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler deliver in Bulls’ win

Bulls guard Nate Robinsapplauds his team's play first half Chicago Bulls-Charlotte Bobcats NBA game Monday January 28 2013 United Center.

Bulls guard Nate Robinson applauds his team's play in the first half of the Chicago Bulls-Charlotte Bobcats NBA game Monday January 28, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 30, 2013 9:16PM



Nate Robinson was talking.

To no one in particular, but it was loud enough for his teammates in the locker room to hear.

“If they named an All-Star team of bench players, I’d be on that [bleep],’’ Robinson said, laughing. “Maybe MVP.’’

The MVP part is debatable. But the imaginary reserve All-Star team is not as far-fetched.

He continued making his case Monday when the Bulls needed a lift in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of his 15 points in a seven-minute span to put some space between the Bulls (27-17) and a pesky Bobcats team that had already handed them a loss Dec. 31.

The 93-85 victory over the Bobcats was a season-high fourth consecutive home win.

“Coach has really been on us about it, so it’s been in the back of our minds,’’ Robinson said about games at the United Center. “Just locking down at home. Collectively as a team, everyone has a better spirit and more energy. It’s trickled down to Jimmy [Butler] and a lot of guys coming off the bench.’’

Or in Butler’s case, returning to the bench. With Luol Deng (strained right hamstring) missing the last five games, Butler averaged 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in the All-Star’s absence. Deng made his return and had 12 points and four rebounds in 31 minutes, but Butler was still a big factor. He played 31 minutes because of the Bobcats’ smaller lineup and had a game-high 19 points.

“Whenever somebody is called upon, we expect them to get the job done,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Whether it’s Jimmy, Nate filling in for extended minutes, Marco [Belinelli] filling in for extended minutes, just be ready and do your job.’’

Something that has come easily for Butler lately.

“It’s not my play that [helps me] gain confidence; it’s my teammates telling me that I can do it,’’ Butler said. “They never really said, ‘Be Lu.’ They told me, ‘Be you,’ be that energy guy that comes in and locks down on defense, hustles, and that’s what I brought to the table as a starter, and that’s what I bring to the table off the bench.’’

With just under two minutes left and Charlotte down six, a fumble off a rebound ended up in Butler’s hands, and he made a layup to increase the Bulls’ lead to eight and deflate the Bobcats (11-33).

It might not be the “Bench Mob’’ from the last two seasons, but it’s a group that’s carving out its own identity each game.

“People overreacted a little bit with what happened this summer,’’ Carlos Boozer said of the roster turnover that affected the reserves. “Chemistry takes time to build. Our chemistry with our second group now is awesome.’’



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