Energetic Robinson sparks Bulls

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Energetic Robinson sparks Bulls

I have no idea, Tom Thibodeau muttered, when asked about backup point guard Nate Robinsons post-basket celebrations. Im just glad he put the ball in the basket.

But in light of the diminutive scorers performance in Tuesday nights win over Thibodeaus former employer, the Celtics, even the Bulls head coach couldnt keep up the faade of annoyance.

HIGHLIGHTS: Noah, Robinson lead Bulls over Celtics

He competed hard. He was a catalyst. He made a lot of good things happen for us, Thibodeau went on to say about Robinson, whom was briefly utilized off the ball with rookie point guard Marquis Teague against a Boston small-ball lineup. His threes were timely. He made some hustle plays for us. He played very well overall.

Robinson scored 18 points, knocked down five of his seven three-point attempts, dished out four assists and only committed one turnover in nearly 22 minutes of action against Boston. More significantly, he electrified the United Center crowd with his energetic play, including one spectacular, but ultimately failed, dunk attempt.

If he had got that dunk, said teammate Carlos Boozer before taking a long pause and emitting a slow whistle. That might have been the play of the year.

Robinson himself opined: I dont want to say I got fouled, because I really dont get those type of calls, but its basketball, man. Hopefully Ill get a dunk soon. I know all the fans are waiting, so I was really hoping to get that one tonight, but maybe next game.

The former NBA Slam Dunk champions aerial exploits aside, Robinson has struggled as of late and he credited again playing with passion to his success Tuesday.

Its something that I had to get back to. The last couple of games, I havent really been shooting the ball well, so I just told myself that I had to go back to my whole Peter Pan theory, he explained. You cant fly without happy thoughts, so Ive just got to find that little niche and continue to be happy, and play the game the way I know how, and thats just free and just being myself, and I did that tonight.

Joakim Noah chimed in, first talking about the motor-mouthed guards tendency to talk even in the showers, Robinson could be heard, clear as day, recapping the game for his teammates behind closed doors before mentioning his game: He doesnt stop, man. Non-stop energy, but he looked like he was having fun out there tonight and when Nates having fun out there on the court, his energys contagious. It was a lot of fun.

Fellow reserve Taj Gibson added: Nate was getting up and down, just pushing the tone. Before the game, he told me he wanted to push the tone and get us back to having fun, and tonight it showed.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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