‘Reserve MVP’ Nate Robinson clutch down stretch in Bulls’ win
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org January 28, 2013 9:34PM
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
Updated: January 30, 2013 9:21PM
Nate Robinson was talking.
It wasn’t to anyone 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? Debatable.
But the imaginary reserve All-Star Team in Nate’s world? Not as far-fetched as one would think.
He continued making his case on Monday, as the reserve point guard once again went Energizer Bunny when the Bulls needed a lift in the fourth quarter, scoring eight points in a seven-minute span to put some space between his team and a pesky Charlotte squad that had already wounded them with a loss back on Dec. 31.
More importantly, it continued to establish that the United Center isn’t the free pass that it was earlier this season, when the opposition was having way too much success courtesy of a Bulls team that was very average at home.
The 93-85 win over the Bobcats was a season-high fourth-consecutive home victory.
“It’s a given,’’ reserve Jimmy Butler said, when asked if the team had made a conscious effort to start guarding the home turf with a bit more energy. “This is our city, that’s our court, so we don’t want teams to come in and feel like it’s easy, like people that have been getting wins there. We’re trying to turn that around. Of course we don’t want to lose any games, but definitely not at home.’’
Not that Charlotte made it easy.
Robinson left the game with 5:28 left and a 10-point lead, only to watch the Bobcats cut it to six with just over two minutes left. Butler, however, had a key steal and lay-in to make it an eight-point lead, and Carlos Boozer kept it at eight with a nasty left-handed jam with just under 1:24 left in the game.
Just like that, the 10-point loss to a Bobcats team that was just 11-33 on the season seemed like a distant memory. A bad memory, but very distant.
“Well they didn’t surprise us in December, we knew they were good,’’ head coach Tom Thibodeau insisted, when asked how teams with poor records have been having success against the Bulls this season. “You have to be ready for everybody.
“That’s what you guys tell me. I just see how good the teams are. If you’re a team in the NBA you’ve got great players, and often times when you dig deeper, usually the result of their record is injury.’’
Not that the Bulls haven’t had their share of injuries this season, with Derrick Rose the headliner in that, but Luol Deng also missing five straight games with a strained right hamstring. Deng returned to the starting lineup against the Bobcats, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds in 31 minutes of work.
That meant Butler was once again back on the bench, but it didn’t keep the second-year player from once again impressing, as he scored a team-high 19.
“Jimmy has played well, and it’s what we expect from our bench,’’ Thibodeau said. “When you look at our bench, when Marco [Belinelli] stepped in [for an injured Rip Hamilton] he did a great job. When someone is out, we expect the next guy to step up.’’