If anyone ever wanted to see a weird playoff basketball game, the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets were more than happy to oblige. During the regular season, there are games in which one team jumps out on another and the team that’s behind comes back to make a game of it, sometimes even win it. But usually, there’s an underlying reason. The team that’s ahead might be playing the third game of a back-to-back-to-back and exhaustion finally sets in. Maybe there’s some other scenario. Whatever. Sometimes it happens.
But in the playoffs? And with a 5′8″ guy who takes over as if the game was invented for short people. Nate Robinson got into one of those zones where no one could stop him - and, which is not always the case - his teammates recognized it. Robinson scored 24 points - from the fourth quarter on! Of course there were three OTs to give him a few more scoring opportunities but he was clearly the X factor.
In terms of physical attributes, while his best one surely isn’t his height, believe it or not, it’s not his quickness either. Sure, the little fella is definitely quick enough but his true strength is . . . his strength. Plus he’s low enough to the floor that he’s impossible knock off balance. Yet none of Nate would have been necessary had C.J. Watson not missed a wide open transition layup/dunk with 3:16 left in the game and his team up 14 points. Here’s a coaching point for C.J. Either jump higher or just lay the damn ball in the basket. You can never be ahead by too much.
Another coaching point for the Nets is, especially in one possession games, it’s mandatory to block out on missed free throws because Nazr Mohammed’s rebound of Carlos Boozer’s free throw pretty much iced the game that should have been yours.
To say that Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau is a basketball purist is like saying Euclid understood geometry. So, Nate Robinson (whose line happened to be 34 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and a huge forced five-second call on a Nets’ side OB play), if Dr. Tibbs gets pissed when you take bad shots - which you are prone to do (and, for the record, did last night on several occasions) - how do you handle him in the huddle? Nate’s answer last night was classic:
“Just keep shootin’ and hope to make ‘em.”
P.S. The OKC-Houston game could have easily been the subject of this blog. 39-19 OKC at the end of the first quarter. Thunder up 26 with 8:00 minutes to go in the half, Rockets go ahead with 3:45 to go in the game and are up two under a minute. Kevin Durant took a three-pointer that hit the back rim, then hit the side of the rim, then hit the back rim again, then fell through.