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.

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

A milk carton was a more likely place to find Bobby Portis than on a basketball floor playing big minutes for the majority of his second season.

He could often be found in the locker room before games and listening to the older players talk to the media afterward, trying his best to fight off the frustration and admitted confusion that comes with the regression of not getting playing time.

When Portis did play, he looked nothing like the confident and borderline cocky rookie who often referred to himself in the third person in interviews. He didn't know when he would play, how long he would be out there or even worse, what was expected of him.

The trade of Taj Gibson at the deadline — preceded by the temporary benching of Nikola Mirotic — put Portis back in the spotlight and he's intent on making the most of it during the last 23 games of the regular season.

"It's fun. You know go out there every day just to know that it's another day I'm going to play," Portis said. "That's the biggest thing for me. I feel like that's already a confidence builder right there, just coming into every game knowing that I'm in the rotation. It's great fun to go out there and play."

It's no secret the front office the Bulls want Portis to succeed and not add him to the ledger of some of the first-round disappointments that can be recalled in recent memory.

The trade of Gibson was certainly underlined with the mantra that Portis should play and the way was going to be cleared for Portis, one way or another. Scoring 19 with eight rebounds against the Celtics on national TV right before the All-Star break probably gave Portis enough validation considering he was thrust into the starting lineup at power forward soon after.

"I don't care about nobody judging me," Portis said. "At the end of the day I'm going to play basketball. That's my job. I'm going to go out there and do the things I do well. I feel like sometimes people misconstrue just because you don't play and they can say some things like that. I don't really care about anybody judging me at this point. At the end of the day I'm still going to be Bobby Portis at the end of the day."

Well, clearly, the third person thing hasn't left the second-year forward, but he said he stayed in the gym waiting on his opportunity, even through a quick but confusing stint to Hoffman Estates to the D-League.

"Just being hungry. Humble and hungry," Portis said. "You know one thing I always strive off of is being humble and hungry. That kept me sane. My mom, I talked to her a lot. She kept me grounded. It's kind of tough not playing and going through the season knowing that some games you might play, you might not play. You know it's about waiting your turn, but at the same time you have to keep working."

Being the fifth big in Fred Hoiberg's rotation didn't leave him a lot of room for Portis to get much run or even find a rhythm, and like many others who've found themselves out of the rotation unexpectedly, it was without much of an explanation.

"Nah, I didn't really know what I could do to get minutes," Portis said. "The one thing that I know that I always do is just come in here every day, work as hard as I can, let the dominos fall how they fall. Every day I come in here, just bust my butt for some minutes, but sometimes it wouldn't work."

Now that he has found himself into Hoiberg's good graces, his improving range has allowed both units to play similiarly.

"I think Bobby has done a real nice job," Hoiberg said. "He was a huge part of our win against Boston in our game right before the break. He just goes out and plays with so much energy. What I really like about him right now is he has no hesitation on his shot. He's stepping into his 3 with good rhythm."

Bulls Road Ahead: Keeping the momentum rolling

Bulls Road Ahead: Keeping the momentum rolling

The Bulls are currently playing their best basketball of the year, winning four straight, including three against Eastern Conference contenders.

How will Fred Hoiberg's group continue this pace during a daunting March schedule? Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Schanowski break it down from the Advocate Center in this edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

Check it all out in the video above.