Time and time again this season, Nate Robinson has bailed out the Chicago Bulls with his quick-strike scoring ability off the bench. Robinson delivered perhaps his finest performance of the year on Saturday, scoring 23 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter of the Bulls' 142-134 triple-overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Bulls trailed by 14 points with just under four minutes remaining in regulation when C.J. Watson missed an uncontested dunk on the fast break. Robinson then went to work, scoring the next 12 points on a variety of shots, including some that seemed like prayers. Chicago tied the game when Robinson found Carlos Boozer for a layup with just under a minute left.
Robinson slowed down in the overtime periods, fouling out at the end of the second. But the damage was done, and if it wasn't for his outburst, the Bulls would be staring at a 2-2 tie heading back to Brooklyn for Game 5 rather than a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Robinson was quiet throughout the first three quarters, other than a scuffle with Watson which resulted in a double technical. But as the game wore on and the Bulls fell behind big in the fourth quarter, Robinson realized that his team needed him to step up.
"My team just needed a lift," Robinson said. "I was just playing with a bunch of energy. That's when I'm at my best. My teammates do a great job just continuing to feed me and I just take it from there."
Over the course of his career, much has been made of "Good Nate" and "Bad Nate." While Robinson can win plenty of games with his scoring, he can also lose them with his poor shot selection and questionable decision-making. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau talked about that dichotomy after the thrilling victory.
"You know, he's a character," Thibodeau said. "I had a good understanding of who he is from my experience in Boston. You have to take the whole package. The good outweighs the bad. He's done great for us. He's had a lot of great moments. He's making plays better than he ever did. His defense is improving. So he's had a terrific year for us."
Robinson — whose contract was not fully guaranteed by the Bulls when he signed for the minimum this past offseason — summed up his general playing style perfectly.
"Like NBA Jam, I just think I'm on fire whenever I'm in the game."
All quotes from NBA.com.