Highlights: Pacers down Bulls, tie up Central Division
INDIANAPOLIS — Nate Robinson was named Eastern Conference player of the week after helping the short-handed Bulls to a 3-1 record, including two starts in the place of injured point guard Kirk Hinrich, the league announced Monday.
Robinson, who extended his streak of consecutive games in double figures to 11 in Monday night’s loss to the Pacers, averaged 17.8 points, 6.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game in the four games.
He scored a game-high 24 points in Wednesday’s win in Milwaukee and in the team’s lone loss, Friday in Brooklyn, he still had a double of 12 points and a game-high 11 assists.
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“It’s a blessing from God, man. I couldn’t do it without my teammates, so that player of the week goes to my teammates, not me. My teammates did a great job of, I guess, making me look good and I couldn’t do it by myself,” said Robinson, who was also named to the Pac-12 Conference’s Men’s Basketball Hall of Honor for his college exploits at the University of Washington. “This is the first time in my career ever getting an award like that. For me, it’s humbling. At the same time, it just makes me more hungry to go out and contribute for my team and play as hard as I can for as long as I can.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: “I thought he had a good week. I thought it’s a byproduct of the team winning. I thought it was the entire team playing well. Of course, he was terrific. I think it helps our team get recognized and that’s what I’m pleased with. I think it’s the winning that helps them get recognized.”
After missing three consecutive games with a right-hamstring injury, Carlos Boozer returned to the lineup Monday and finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of the Bulls’ loss to the Pacers.
Boozer wasn’t pleased with his performance.
“I’m probably like 70 percent or whatever, but it felt good to be out there,” he said. “I just couldn’t help my team the way I wanted to.”
Thibodeau chimed in: “It’s about what I expected. Some good, some bad, a little rust, but overall, good.”
Noah’s fashion scrutinized
All-Star center Joakim Noah sat on the bench to support his teammates Monday in Indiana—until he was escorted by Bulls team security to the locker room midway through the contest.
After halftime, he returned to the sidelines—in different apparel.
The free-spirited Noah, known for his off-beat fashion choices, was wearing a striped dress shirt and conservative blazer, a far cry from his less traditional hooded sweatshirt and jacket.
“They said my sweatshirt—I don’t even know, really—I just put on a collar. They told me I wasn’t dressed appropriately, so I changed,” he said. “That isn’t my style, but I want to be out there with my guys.”
NBA rules dictate a dress code for players sitting on the bench and inactive; a sport coat and collared shirt is the norm.
Belinelli fights through injury
Late in the opening period, Marco Belinelli knocked down a three-pointer, plus the foul, but writhed in pain on the floor as his teammates surrounded him to celebrate.
The backup shooting guard came down on a Pacers defender’s foot, but after a timeout, he came back into the game to hit the ensuing free throw, completing the four-point play, then immediately went into the locker room and was replaced by Daequan Cook.
However, although he was diagnosed with a sprained right ankle, Belinelli returned to the contest in the second quarter and eventually scored a team-high 24 points.
“It was bad when I came back on the court in the second quarter. I can feel it right not because I’m cold, but it’s not that bad,” he explained. “This kind of thing, that can happen during the game. I just tried to play hard and win the game.
“I was okay. When you play when you’re hurt, I was feeling it just a little bit, but not that much, so it’s okay. I was feeling it a little on defense when I was changing directions, but that’s part of the game. I wanted to play,” continued Belinelli, who added that he believed he’ll play in the Bulls’ next game, Thursday in Denver. “I’m going to have treatment tomorrow. I’m going to treat it right now on the plane and we’ll see. We’ve got like two days off…I’m going to try to do my best to play.”
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Thibodeau was pleased with Belinelli’s outing Monday and again utilized him as a facilitator and primary ballhandler, particularly in pick-and-roll scenarios.
“I thought he played very well and again, I thought he executed pick-and-rolls very well for us,” he said. “Well, I think having a second pick-and-roll guy is big and a guy who can go off the dribble. Indiana has a great defense, so you have to be able to keep the ball moving. You’ve got to be able to move their size out of the lane. They’re quick, they’re tough and Marco’s been playing very well for us.”
Belinelli added: “It’s good. I like to play in that kind of situation. Pick-and-roll, I can create my own shot, I can create something for my teammates.”
Speaking of Cook…
Cook, an Ohio native who played AAU basketball with an Indianapolis-based team featuring former No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden and Memphis point guard Mike Conley, among others who made it to the NBA, played 11 minutes Monday, seizing the opportunity that presented itself when Belinelli was injured.
The Bulls’ newest acquisition scored three points—on an aggressive driving layup, plus the foul, for a three-point play—and snatched two rebounds during his time on the floor, drawing praise from Thibodeau.
“Daequan’s been doing a good job. When someone comes in, in the middle of the season, they have to learn what you’re doing,” he said. ”Whenever you put someone in, you have to take someone out and right now, we haven’t had any injuries to the wings—the wings have been relatively healthy—but he stays ready. I thought he did a good job when he was in there.”
Thibodeau wary of Nuggets
The Bulls are off Tuesday and changed their itinerary to arrive in Denver early Wednesday, to practice there the day before Thursday’s contest against the Nuggets.
In light of his team allowing 111 points to the low-scoring Pacers, Thibodeau was justifiably concerned about the explosive Nuggets, a deep and offensively-talented squad that had a rough schedule early in the season, but presents a variety of matchup problems.
“We’ve got to be ready for Denver. Denver’s a heck of a team. We’ll be off tomorrow, have a good practice, watch some film, get ready, study and hopefully play better,” he explained. “They’re a heck of a team. when you look at their record, it’s deceiving because they had a ton of road games early in the year and now their schedule’s coming back the other way for them. But they’re an excellent team. They play fast, they attack off the dribble, they share the ball, they play hard. I think they’re one of the top teams in the West, so we’re going to have to be at our best. We’re going to have to play defense and be ready right from the start of the game.”