MORRISSEY: Nate Robinson came to play on Saturday
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com April 27, 2013 9:46PM
Chicago Bulls Nate Robinson reacts to scoring a basket during the fourth quarter at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., on Saturday, April 27, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: May 30, 2013 3:02PM
I don’t know where Nate Robinson is from. I know it says Seattle in all his biographical information, but that’s fiction and quite possibly a government cover-up.
He’s from some other planet where everything is unstable and combustible, where people are up and down in the extreme, where the overworked fire department rushes from one explosion to the next.
If you’ve watched Robinson at all, you know that the show he put on Saturday in the Bulls’ 142-134, three-overtime victory could have gone the opposite way — could have, in fact, ended up resembling a smoking crater. The guy fluctuates wildly between maddening and wonderful, and that’s from minute to minute.
But only Good Nate was on the premises in Game 4 at the United Center, and when he’s this good and this true, he’s too good to be true.
And that’s just it, right? This didn’t really happen. Couldn’t have. The Bulls were down 14 points with 3 minutes, 46 seconds left in regulation. That’s when Robinson, all 5 feet, 9 inches of him, went on his own personal 12-0 run, scoring on drives, three-pointers, free throws and pretty much whatever shot the imagination could conjure up. If you tack on the three baskets he had made minutes earlier, he scored 19 of the Bulls’ 21 points in one stretch. I don’t think he was unconscious. I do think he reached eternal consciousness, however.
“I always think I’m on fire,’’ he said afterward. “Kind of like the old-school [video] game, “NBA Jam,’’ you make a couple and the rim’s on fire and you shoot the ball, the ball’s on fire. I feel like that at times — well, all the time.
“… You’ve kind of got to lie to yourself and feel like you can’t miss. You do that, and things change in the course of the game.’’
Down the stretch in regulation, Robinson suggested to coach Tom Thibodeau that the Bulls stay spontaneous and not run specific plays for him. It would keep the Nets off balance, he said. Spontaneous to Thibodeau is wearing blue socks instead of black, so you can imagine the conflict that must have raged inside him. But Thibodeau acquiesced, and it was the best bit of self-control he has exhibited.
Robinson scored 23 points in the fourth quarter. Not bad for a bench player. Not bad for Michael Jordan. It’s why the Bulls head to Brooklyn with a 3-1 series lead.
Robinson will drive a coach crazy with bad shots and decisions. But then there are days like Saturday when he scores 34 points on 14 of 23 shooting, and the coach wants to hug him.
“He’s a character, now,’’ Thibodeau said. “I had a good understanding of who he is from my experience with him in Boston. You’ve got to take the whole package. The good outweighs the bad.’’
What a ridiculously entertaining game. Are the Bulls and the Nets any good? I don’t know, and I don’t care. The ridiculousness reached its apex when Robinson banked in a running shot from just inside the three-point line with 1.7 seconds left in the first overtime. To repeat: from just inside the three-point line. A runner. Off the backboard.
Emotions ran hot Saturday. The Nets’ Gerald Wallace put a hard pick on Robinson in the fourth quarter, sending him to the floor. In the second quarter, Robinson got tangled up with C.J. Watson, leading to a double technical.
“He’s going to push me, and I’m going to push him,’’ Robinson said.
Yeah, right into the scorer’s table.
There were many standouts for the Bulls. Kirk Hinrich played 59 minutes, 36 seconds, had 14 assists and found a jump shot that hasn’t always been there. Joakim Noah had 15 points and 13 rebounds. We’ll see if the 39 minutes he played on that injured foot will haunt him and the Bulls. Three players fouled out, including Robinson, and the Bulls won anyway. Crazy.
I mean, Nazr Mohammed? Mohammed is 35. This isn’t golf. Thirty-five is old. But he grabbed a Carlos Boozer missed free throw in triple overtime, put it back in and got fouled to give the Bulls a 140-134 lead in the waning moments. Crazy again.
Even though this was a team effort, the idea of a victory was a pipe dream until a little guy took over and fired up the UC crowd.
“I tease coach a lot because it seems like every shot I shoot, he’s mad,’’ Robinson said.
Thibs mad? Not Saturday.
Definitely not Saturday.