In Friday’s instant classic Game 4 win, Nate Robinson needed just 29 minutes to score 34 points in the Bulls’ 142-134 triple-overtime victory. With Kirk Hinrich resting a bruised calf, Robinson is sure to see an increase in minutes as he enters the starting rotation tonight in Game 5. There’s only one place you can get the hometown call with Neil and Stacey, and that’s on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 5:30 with Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski, Sidney Green and Will Perdue.
Like the Blackhawks and their goaltending situation, the Bulls have had the luxury of two impressive point guards of late. Hinrich and Robinson played well all season, complementing each other as pass-first (Hinrich) and shoot-first (Robinson) court generals. Because of the latter’s outside shooting and versatility, Tom Thibodeau has been able to play a smaller lineup with both on the court.
But with Hinrich—who was the unsung hero of Game 5 (18 points, 14 assists) before Robinson stole all the headlines with his 23-point fourth-quarter run—out, the Bulls will turn to Robinson to be both a scorer and distributor as they look to close out the Brooklyn Nets tonight.
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Robinson has started just 104 of his 530 career games—23 this season with the Bulls—but has made the most of each one. In those starts he averages 15.3 points on 44 percent shooting and 4.4 assists in 34 minutes per game, up from his 10.6 points on 42 percent shooting and 2.7 assists in 21 minutes off the bench.
There’s no denying Robinson can score and should score against the Nets’ porous defense, but the biggest factor in tonight’s performance will be whether he can slow down his counterpart, Deron Williams.
Hinrich has played superb defense on the 6-foot-4 Williams, who is averaging 20.0 points and 7.8 assists, but is just 41 percent from the field (three points below his regular-season average) and has turned the ball over 14 times in the series. Hinrich’s defense peaked in the overtime periods Saturday afternoon, when Williams played all 15 minutes in the three sessions, but scored just one field goal on 1-of-6 shooting and had one assist to one turnover.
Robinson should play close to 40 minutes—he averaged 33.4 minutes in his 23 starts this year but will see an uptick given the situation—but Hinrich’s absence may force Thibodeau to use Marco Belinelli at point guard. While rookie Marquis Teague is next on the depth chart, he’s still just a 20-year-old rookie who has not played yet in the series.
Belinelli has seen his role decrease with the emergence of Jimmy Butler, who started while Belinelli missed time with an abdominal strain. But Thibodeau used the true shooting guard at the point in situations late in the season, which allowed Robinson to play off the ball where he’s more comfortable (and efficient). Belinelli has averaged 11.8 minutes per game in the series, most recently playing only four minutes in Game 4, but Thibodeau may rely on him more with Hinrich out.
There’s only one place to get the hometown call with Neil and Stacey. Keep it with Comcast SportsNet all night, and get interactive with Bulls Pulse, using #BullsTalk to join the conversation. Coverage begins at 5:30.