Tag Archives: Nate Robinson

The Regular Season Is Better Than The Playoffs

I am suffering, for the second straight year, from playoffs-induced writer’s block. It seems to be something that grips a fairly large percentage of the Hardwood Paroxysm writers. It got to the point last season that Matt Moore upbraided us on the blog’s daily email thread, saying he couldn’t decide whether he was disappointed that we couldn’t find more to say about all the storylines going on or proud that we generally write about such weirdo backwaters of the NBA that we were flummoxed by the postseason and all the general media attention lavished on it.

I’d like to think it’s the latter. Much as it is for teams, the regular season is a nearly bottomless place for writers, where so many things happen that many fly by unnoticed. If one team has another team’s number on a given night, the tables could just as easily be reversed a month down the line. It’s how the Wolves can lose to the Spurs 104-94 in early February and then turn around and hang 107 on San Antonio while giving up 83 a month later.

But in the playoffs, the character of the games changes dramatically, and not just in intensity. Weird things happen in a seven-game series. Ask the 2007 Dallas Mavericks about it. Their 67-15 season and #1 seed in the West ended with a 4-2 first round defeat at the hands of the 42-40 Warriors. Were they exposed, or just victims of chance?

Or ask a player like Jerome James. After averaging 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game for his whole career, he played 11 postseason games for the Sonics in 2005 where he averaged 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Knicks promptly signed him to a 6 year, $30 million deal. In 2008 he played five minutes of basketball and made $5.8 million.

Or consider Nate Robinson in this year’s playoffs, where he went from sparkplug to starter. Last year he was on the Warriors. The year before that, he was an add-on in the deal that sent Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics to the Thunder to add size to the team. Chances are they weren’t after Nate. That was his second mid-season trade in a row, having been moved from the Knicks to the Celtics the year before.

But this postseason he averaged 16.3 points and 4.4 assists per game while posting a PER of 15.8 for a Bulls team no one expected much out of without Derrick Rose. Having spent a good twenty minutes in a Chicago Bulls locker room while Nate held court and clowned, I know that in addition to knowing his team was depending on him, he knew his own personal price tag was going up with that tremendous display of grit and determination.

There’s a reason that some people only watch the playoffs. It’s some of the same reason that people say it’s only the last five minutes of a basketball game that matter. Storylines crystallize, outcomes hinge on a few crisp passes or one blown defensive assignment. It can feel for all the world like we’re seeing the real basketball at those moments, the best basketball.

But are we?

This year’s New York Knicks thrived in the regular season on a combination of relentless 3-point shooting (taking a league-leading 2,371 3-point shots and making them at a rate of 37.6%, good for fourth in the league) and small ball principles driven by Carmelo Anthony’s move to the power forward position. But in the playoffs, when the chips were down against the Pacers’ considerable length and defensive acumen, Mike Woodson went away from what had worked so well. He moved Anthony back to the small forward position and filled the paint with traditional bigs. This meant less driving room for J.R. Smith, who regressed to his worst shooting habits, and a sky-high usage rate of 37.7% for Anthony. They bowed out in the second round.

Were the Knicks we saw against the Pacers the true Knicks in some sense? They certainly weren’t the best Knicks, but then again, “true” and “best” don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, much as we wish they would.

Of course, if you’ve been following the leading lights of the daily basketball writing world—people like Zach Lowe at Grantland, Dan Devine and Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie, Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver at Sports Illustrated, Zach Harper and our founding father Matt Moore at CBS’ Eye on Sports, or Henry Abbott and the other great minds at TrueHoop, just to name a few—you already know about the Knicks’ devolution. You already know about Scott Brooks’ failure to adapt or innovate in the wake of Russell Westbrook’s injury. You already know how the Spurs frustrated and stymied Zach Randolph in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals. I mean, jeez: I just found out from Kelly Dwyer how the Memphis Grizzlies have a historically large number of left-handed players.

Trying to pull a good, overlooked angle out of the playoffs is a lot like being a good rebounder who’s 5’10” in a pickup game when a bunch of 6’4” guys show up to play. I know this because that’s exactly the guy I am. Rebounding goes from a matter of effort and determination to simply being physically impossible. As the number of teams gets cut in half, then in half again, then again, as the number of games on any given night goes from six to four to three to two to one, fewer and fewer things slip between the cracks of the hardwood.

But I love the cracks in the hardwood. Baseball diamonds don’t have cracks; football fields don’t have cracks. Whenever I watch those sports, I’m struck by how moments of play are always followed by moments of repose, by time to reset and prepare again. Basketball has those moments as well, but it also has a way of relentlessly piling things on top of each other, of collaging players and playsets and stats and patterns and then leaving it to all of us to pick apart and make sense of.

At least, it does in the regular season. As a fan, I love the playoffs. I love the wanton ridiculousness of them and the epic breakdowns and heroic comebacks and the way a series of games becomes a chess match of adjustments, an illustration of the way humans adapt and learn.

But as a writer, I might just love the regular season more, where the games stretch off into the distance. Where I can tell my wife the season is almost over—just 15 games left—and have her tell me, “That seems like a lot of games.” Where you can excavate meaning from meaninglessness, where some stats are valuable and other aren’t, where some storylines are short and others long. Where some things that seem very important for a few games can end up not being very important at all. Where the last week of the season for a lottery-bound team becomes an existential crisis. When it comes to the playoffs, I miss the inattentiveness, the corpulence, the slog, the torpor of the regular season.

The Conference Finals are upon us. The intensity is ramping up. It’s win or go home and that’s the reason everyone is watching this, the final five minutes of the NBA season. This is, after all, where amazing happens. I guess I just like when amazing plays hard-to-get.

Well, there’s always next year.

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 5/3/13: WHY DID THAT SERIES HAVE TO END?

Night 13 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs is officially in the books. We had one series that people can’t wait to end and one series that people wish was a best of 15. We had Lion Faces; we had Lemon Faces. Let’s get to them.

Lion Face: The Nets starting lineup

Consistency can be a beautiful thing in a starting lineup over the course of a game, and the Nets had plenty of it last night. Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson all scored 17 points while Gerald Wallace dropped in 15. While Reggie Evans only managed 2 points, he pulled down 15 rebounds. With their powers combined, the starting five helped Brooklyn to force a Game 7 in this series as they head back to New York.

Lemon Face: The Bulls health

Derrick Rose remaining on the bench despite being cleared to play limited the chances of the Bulls to make any sort of playoff run as it is, but additional injuries to Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich coupled with Luol Deng and Nate Robinson suffering flu like symptoms is just overkill of a cruel joke by the basketball gods. Deng was a late scratch, but Robinson and Noah gutted their way through 42 and 43 minutes respectively. The Warriors may have played the late game, but there were warriors in the early contest as well. While the Heat would still be overwhelming favorites in the East, it’s a shame that we never got to see Chicago at full strength this year since they could have at least made Miami work for it.

Lion Face: Nate Robinson (yes, again)

We might need to start renaming Lion Face to Nate Robinson Face if this keeps up. Robinson played through the flu and scored 18 points for the Bulls, but it was this move that he pulled on Kris Humphries that secured him a Lion Face:

GIF via @cjzero

Looks like Kris Humphries would like to have that highlight annulled/was left at the altar/[insert your own awful Kardashian joke in this space].

Lemon Face: Fans that bought tickets to the Rihanna concert at Barclays

Apparently the Nets win last night forced Rihanna to postpone her concert in Brooklyn on Saturday night to Tuesday which has left fans none too pleased. Rembert Browne of Grantland retweeted some of the folks affected by this change, and it also serves as a reminder to never read Twitter in times like this or Internet comments at any time.

Lion Face: Kosta Koufos

Sadly, I am no longer able to claim that I have made as many three pointers in the NBA as Kosta Koufos after last night. Demonstrating no regard for the shot clock in the middle of the first quarter, Koufos dribble the ball outside the arc, looked up at the shot clock on the opposing basket, and chucked up a triple that found nothing but the bottom of the net giving him his first three in his seven year career. As the saying goes, a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.

GIF via SBNation

Lemon Face: The Nuggets on the road

With the loss last night, the Nuggets fell to 1-13 in their past 14 playoff games on the road. Not that it is by any means easy to win a playoff road game, but Denver is approaching unchartered territory here. Their inability to win on the road forces them to be perfect at home if they have any chance of winning the series as a higher seed with home court advantage, and it basically seals their fate if they enter the series as the lower seeded team. Atlanta and Houston frequently get branded as the epitome of “Treadmill of Mediocrity” teams, but the Nuggets are doing their best to usurp that title. This is now the ninth time in the past ten seasons that Denver has made the playoffs and failed to advance past the first round.

Lion Face: Steph Curry’s Second Half

Image via NBA.com

Image via NBA.com

5-8 from the field, 4-6 from beyond the arc, 16 points, and the added benefit of energizing the raucous Oracle crowd. Curry’s performance in the 3rd quarter (4-6 FG, 14 points) helped the Warriors pull ahead and they never looked back in moving on to the second round for the first time since the 2007 “We Believe” team. It’s a good thing Curry stepped up in the second half because…

Lemon Face: Steph Curry’s First Half

Image via NBA.com

Image via NBA.com

1-6 from the field, 0-2 from beyond the arc, 6 points. Oof. Curry’s been sensational in this series, but he cannot afford to have too many halves like this if the Warriors want to have any chance of upsetting San Antonio. Roaracle can only do so much to impact the outcome of the game, but at the end of the day, as always, it’s going to come down to the players on the floor.

Statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 4/12/13: IT’S NATE ROBINSON’S WORLD

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, unless of course you consider the show to be the NBA regular season in which case it’s actually ending very soon. Regardless, with the regular season winding down and the playoffs getting ready to start up, we’re bringing back America’s 34th favorite semi-running column: Lion Face/Lemon Face. As a refresher for those that forgot and introduction for those who are new here, Lion Faces are given to the best players, plays, or moments of the night; Lemon Faces are for the worst. Have a suggestion in the future? Tag it on Twitter with #LionFace or #LemonFace during a weeknight game and we’ll make sure one of our 921 writers see it. Without further ado, on to the LF/LF nominees from Thursday’s TNT doubleheader…

Lion Face: Nate Robinson

GIF from Beyond the Buzzer

It’s been a while since I watched professional wrestling regularly, but I do know that Wrestlemania XXIX was this past Sunday. I was shocked to find out and completely unaware that they unified five different championship belts, and they were apparently all won by Nate Robinson. Either that, or he is the most insured man on the planet after busting out the never before seen Discount Septuple Check following a three pointer. Robinson finished with 35 points on the night, a season high and the most points he’s scored in a game since New Year’s Day 2010. He also added 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and infinite swag in helping the Bulls snap the Knicks’ 13 game winning streak.

Lemon Face: Jarrett Jack

GIF from DailyThunder.com

In the immortal words of Harry Doyle, “Juuuuuuuust a bit outside.” On the plus side, the Raiders are set to start Matt Flynn this year and Terrelle Pryor is currently Flynn’s backup, so if the whole basketball thing ends up not working out for Jack, he can still put that arm to use in Oakland.

Lion Face: Jimmy Butler

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/JeffGurt/status/322536544089042944"]

Butler has been playing extremely well lately having chipped in a double digit scoring effort in 10 of his last 12 games including his career high 22 tonight. Butler also pulled down 14 rebounds, another career high, against the Knicks. Not too shabby for the 30th pick of the 2011 Draft.

Lemon Face: This Bulls fan

GIF from @SBNationGIF

This is actually a fantastic shot, so don’t think that it got a Lemon Face because it was somehow the worst of the night. I’m giving this a Lemon Face only for the sole fact that it looks like she might be ready to actually ingest a full lemon sometime within the next four seconds. Also, what is Joakim Noah doing in the stands right behind her? Why isn’t he getting back on defense? And why is he wearing a t-shirt jersey?

Lion Face: The Durant-Westbrook Connection

Without question, Durant and Westbrook gave us the best sequence of the night. A swat by Westbrook followed up by Kevin Durant’s complete lack of regard for human life coupled with Golden State’s complete lack of regard for transition defense made this happened. Just sit back and enjoy it.

Lion Face: Golden State’s 3 Point Shooting

GoldenState3s

Typically, if you shoot 183.3% from beyond the arc, that’s a pretty solid shooting night. Unfortunately for the Warriors, this actually appears to bring down the torrid 248.8% they were apparently shooting coming into last night’s contest. If you’re the type of person that’s actually into “statistics” and “actual facts”, Golden State actually entered the game shooting 40.2% from 3, good enough for first in the NBA. They finished last night 7-16 from 3 to slightly raise their shooting percentage on the year. Consider this as more of a season long Lion Face honor because honestly, the Lion Faces are hard to come by when you get blown out by 19 points on national TV.

Lion Face: Guys named Kevin on the Thunder

Kevin Martin Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Martin Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Durant Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Durant Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Martin: 8-10 from the field. 4-5 from beyond the arc. 3-3 from the line. 23 points in total. Yeah, Kevin Martin had himself a night off the bench for the Thunder. And if you ever wanted more proof that single game +/- is hilariously misleading at times, Martin finished with a +1 for the game. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant turned in a ho-hum 31-10-8 night on 10-16 field goals and shot 90% from the charity stripe. In the race for the scoring title, Durant now is averaging 28.2 points per game while Carmelo Anthony has widened his lead by averaging 28.6 points per contest. Speaking of Melo…

Limón Face: Carmelo Anthony

On one hand, Anthony became the first Knick to ever post six consecutive games of at least 35 points. In his five previous games, he shot at least 51% from the field, and shot over 60% in four of those five games. On the other hand, last night he needed 34 shots from the field to get his 36 points, and finished the game 13-34 (38%) including missing all four three-point attempts. It’s not often that a guy with a 36 point, 20 rebound effort deserves a Lemon Face, but 13-34 is far from Lionesque. Instead, he gets a hybrid of the two: the Limón Face.

Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com

Writing the Unwritten

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt on Flickr

Last night, with the win already in hand over the Chicago Bulls, Damian Lillard made a rookie mistake, but it wasn’t the kind that costs a team possessions. Up 100-94 with 6 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Lillard followed up a Jared Jeffries rebound with a wide open dunk at the other end, bringing the score to 102-94 (Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer has video and his own take here). As the buzzer sounded, he was approached by Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson, who let him know just what was up.

“[M]e and Joakim just addressed it like, ‘In the future, you’ve just got to be smarter. A lot of teams are not going to let you do that,’” Gibson explained after the game, according to CSN Chicago’s Aggrey Sam. Petit point guard Nate Robinson even chimed in, saying afterward, “I just told him, ‘That’s not the right play, dog. Just dribble the ball out. You all have got the victory already,’ stuff like that. Everybody around the league watches that. That pisses people off.”

That’s right, Nate Robinson. The guy who shot at his own basket and made it as the buzzer sounded for the end of the first quarter back in 2009.

And then there’s Noah, who just last week put up a doomed three-pointer in a win against the Magic in an attempt to get Big Macs for the hometown crowd. Please note that the Slam story begins with the statement, “Because he is awesome, Joakim Noah launched an ill-advised three on Tuesday night …” This is the same Noah who is a devotee of finger guns, who did this little dance after a Korver three put the Bulls up 65-39 on the Bucks with 1:18 to go in the first half of a game last season.

But as entertaining as it would be to parse every instance of a player doing something stupid and then admonishing another player for doing a different stupid thing, I’m not really interested in picking apart hypocrisy, or even branding it as such. What’s more interesting to me is the idea of the unwritten rule, how it pervades subcultures, and how they become learned.

Because make no mistake: the power of the unwritten rule lies in its very unwrittenness. Writing them down would remove their hold over the members of the group who understand them. If there are not unwritten rules to learn, then there are not secrets that set the bar for entry into that culture. They are lore, oral history, the unspoken things that knit a culture together, even if they seem dumb.

Case in point: As a musician, I learned, at some point, not to wear shorts onstage. Now you can certainly point to a whole lot of professional musicians in successful bands who do wear shorts onstage: Pearl Jam, for instance, whom I blame for me ever thinking it was all right to do. Here’s what I wore for the first show I ever played: A purple T-shirt, green and purple plaid shorts, and green Doc Martens. I found shorts to be comfortable. I also thought I had pretty good legs. Our bassist wore Tevas for that show. In short, we were in high school and it showed, even though the weird thing is that any arguments we could have made for our sartorial choices would have made sense. Shorts are comfortable and often practical. Looking at it now, I would even say there are exceptions to be made for particularly balmy outdoor shows, and certainly for certain genres of music, but they’re genres I don’t play.

But sense isn’t what unwritten rules are about. It’s not even what most written rules are about. When I ask my students why they think we use MLA style, the response I usually get first is, “It’s the best.” Maybe they just think that’s what I want to hear, but it’s certainly not the case. There’s nothing inherent in a style, whether it’s MLA or APA or AP, that makes it good. We use it because it makes us comprehensible to a certain audience. When they see us use it, they understand that we’re part of the club.

But here’s the positive thing to take away from the Bulls’ swift move to let Lillard know what he had done was unacceptable: they let him know. That, in itself, is recognition of his admittance to the club. Anyone who’s involved in a profession or culture has seen unwritten rules being broken and not said anything. I don’t spend my time at gigs telling other bands on the bill they shouldn’t be wearing shorts and it’s not because I’m nice. It’s actually, sadly, kind of the opposite. Most of the time, it’s because I think there’s no point in calling attention to it—that they’ll either figure it out on their own or not, that it’s a hurdle they need to clear themselves.

So yes: I’m an asshole. And maybe in that instant when he dunked it, Lillard was being an asshole. And Noah and Robinson have been and probably will be assholes again. You might even say when they confronted Lillard they were being hypocrites. But the whole endgame situation in Portland also points to how being a professional and a hypocrite and an asshole are not mutually exclusive, nor even extricable from one another. Any subculture is shot through with signs and signifiers and codes of conduct that make little to no sense, and they can make the ride into acceptance by that culture bumpy. But that’s what they’re there for, and as much as the Bulls took offense at Lillard’s breach of etiquette, the fact that they jumped down his throat is ultimately a sign he belongs.

One Round to Rule Them All

Photo by Nrbelex on Flickr

When the lineup for this year’s Slam Dunk Contest was announced, there was nothing but crickets coming from casual basketball fans. No Blake Griffin? No LeBron James? More dedicated followers of the NBA were maybe less surprised. Defending your dunk title has become a bit passé. And rumors about James’ participation fly every year, but he has little to gain by entering and winning and much more by losing. Getting into the dunk contest and falling to anyone might be a bigger misstep than The Decision.

But even the most enthusiastic basketball fans groaned at the field. Derrick Williams? He’s caught some nice alley-oops from Ricky Rubio, but he strikes me as a game dunker, not a showcase dunker. Paul George had that one great breakaway reverse where he pulled it down between his legs, but that’s about it. Chase Budinger’s dunks would best be described as workmanlike. And lastly, Iman Shumpert (who misses nearly as many dunks as he makes) bowed out to be replaced by the wildly better Jeremy Evans. But Evans is 6’9” and bigger guys get less credit for jumping high. It just doesn’t look as cool. His best dunk so far was called an offensive foul.

So why is there any reason for positivity? For one, the new single round format might actually work. Call me crazy, but the multi-round format of previous years has ruined what could have been some great dunk contests. Take Andre Iguodala’s performance in the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest. His alley-oop from Allen Iverson caught off the back of the backboard was probably the best dunk from that year’s event, but it came in the penultimate round and Iguodala ultimately lost to the diminutive Nate Robinson in a dunk off. Robinson’s dunk over Spud Webb signaled the turn of the contest towards a weirdly meta, prop-based approach to the dunk contest. Plus it took him 14 attempts to put it in. Iguodala was, in short, robbed.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6z9-l4hnMM

Two years later, Dwight Howard took the crown with the most prop-driven performance up until that point, but Gerald Green’s opening round dunk got lost in the shuffle. It’s a shame, because it was slick and creative.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1pXEumOGOU

But in subsequent rounds, Green showed he couldn’t come up with anything to top himself, much less any of the other contestants. The best dunk contest participants, from Michael Jordan to Vince Carter, have shown a sense of showmanship that extends beyond the individual dunks to the arc created over the whole contest. It’s kind of cognitively dissonant with the spirit of dunking in the game, which relies more on chance, timing, and opportunity than advance planning.

So there’s a chance that this single round format will level the field a bit more, resulting in good early dunks carrying more weight. But on the other hand, the NBA ditching the judges and awarding the trophy based solely on fan vote is thoroughly wrongheaded. The judge system has had its own problems (as when Howard’s truly impressive sticker dunk was misunderstood by them in the moment), but it’s impossible to see how a fan vote doesn’t lead to something that values flash or name recognition over an honest appraisal of dunks. On the bright side, no one knows who these contestants are. Seriously, this field’s about as open as the field of Republican presidential candidates last November.

But mixed feelings over the Slam Dunk Contest are nothing new. The truly revelatory performances are almost always surprises, which is perhaps in the dunk’s very nature. Like humor, a good dunk thrives on being unexpected, whether that means breaking out of the flow and rhythm of a regular game or coming up with something that’s never been seen before in the contest. The real key to a great dunk contest performance, though, is not only doing something startlingly new, but rather finding a balance between athleticism, showmanship, and, strangely, comprehensibility. Green’s cupcake dunk, Howard’s sticker dunk, and Javale McGee’s cradle under-the-backboard dunk all suffered for not being as immediately graspable as Dr. J’s free throw line dunk or Vince Carter’s through-the-legs alley-oop. Given the tremendous athleticism of players in the NBA now and the switch to fan-voting, it’s likely that the winning dunk won’t be the most impressive, but rather, the one that communicates the best.

NBA Finals Celtics-Lakers Game 4: Big Baby Drools And The Rest Of The Bench Rules


(via Truth About It)

Back around the turn of the millennium, the Sacramento Kings were trying to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. While they were building an evolving squad that was trying to find the balance between a veteran bench and a growing core of really incredible players, they had a certain group of players called “The Bench Mob.” The Bench Mob was comprised of an unusual band of brothers for Sacramento. The leaders of the mob were Jon Barry and Darrick Martin. They had Peja Stojakovic before he was Peja Stojakovic. They had scrappy guys like Lawrence Funderburke, Scot Pollard and Tony Delk. Hell, even Tyrone Corbin and Bill Wennington made an appearance from time to time.

This wasn’t the best bench in the league by any means. In fact, they had a bunch of specialists and not really anything resembling a tried and true group of proven contributors. And that’s sort of why it worked. Nobody expected much out of them. Maybe they weren’t going to make a good percentage of their shots. Maybe they weren’t going to execute with the flair and grace of Webber, Vlade and Jason Williams. But they were probably going to outwork you no matter who you threw at them.

This Boston group of pine-sitters reminds me of the same thing. It’s not so much a Bench Mob as it is a swarm. In the fourth game of the 2010 NBA Finals, the Boston bench managed to swarm the Lakers players and hit them with a deluge of energy and effort. The Lakers couldn’t help but hope for mistakes by the men in green. Rather than outwork them and exude their talents and dominance over this group, the Lakers just sort of took it. The Boston bench didn’t just outplay the Lakers bench. For much of the fourth quarter, they outplayed the Lakers starters and put on a show in doing so.

“We were like Shrek and Donkey.” – Nate Robinson on the Game Four performance of Glen Davis and himself.

It’s sort of perfect that Nate Robinson made this analogy for him and his bulbous sidekick after they helped the Celtics find a fourth-quarter groove and even up the NBA Finals with a must-win in Game Four. Nate Robinson was the pesky, annoying sidekick that you expected to provide all of the comedic relief while Big Baby bruised his way through the forest, destroying everything in his path. It was entertaining and almost cartoonish.

When Big Baby grabbed his fourth offensive rebound of the game with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter and powered his way back up to the basket against Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, he absorbed the foul, scored the basket and unleashed an outburst of emotion and drool that makes Kevin Garnett look like Tim Duncan on horse tranquilizers. Effort, energy and heart were going to be needed to win the NBA Finals. The Game Four version of the Boston Celtics bench had it and the Lakers simply didn’t.

A lineup of Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace played the first 9:10 of the fourth quarter against LA and left the game with an eight-point lead for the starters to play with. They survived a quick run of technical fouls by Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson. They survived 12 fourth quarter points from Kobe Bryant. They took control of a game in the NBA Finals, which was as close to a must-win as you can get without having a loss result in elimination.

Big Baby was fantastic. You can say that he excelled because Andrew Bynum nearly sat for the entire second half as his knee swelled up beyond belief because that’s not the entire truth. Big Baby was able to score when Bynum was out there. In fact, he scored on whomever the Lakers employed to plug up the paint. Lamar Odom was absent-minded and couldn’t find the focus to put a body on Big Baby. The Large Infant bounced off Mr. Kardashian and bounced off Pau Gasol. If there was a basketball to be had or a key bucket to be scored, the oversized-undersized power forward from LSU was going to get it done.

And as good as he was in this game, it’s just as important we recognize the rest of the bench players that did their part. Nate Robinson improbably played out of this world again by hitting threes, making plays and being the annoying ball of energy that’s only been replicated by the chicken hawk in Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. Tony Allen played remarkable defense against Kobe Bryant. Did he stop Kobe? Not even close. Kobe ended up with 33 points on 22 shots, which is sort of ridiculous. However, he did turn the ball over seven times and had Allen make some pretty big plays by stripping the ball and challenging jumpers.

You also can’t forget the job that Rasheed Wallace did in this game. Yes, he ran around after a couple of foul calls against him and eventually earned himself a tech. It was absolutely deserved. But it’s just part of the Sheed package. He plays with a fire when he’s into the game and he was definitely into this game. This time the fire gave the Lakers a technical free throw that Kobe promptly missed. One minute later, Wallace hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Celtics a nine-point lead that felt insurmountable. Couple that with some tough defense inside and you’ve got the cherry on top of the sundae the Boston bench served up to their fans Thursday night.

This Celtics bench has been inconsistent all season long. It’s just as likely they’ll follow up this performance in Game Four with the exact same thing in Game Five to help Boston take a commanding three games to two lead in the Finals. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see them come up well short of the needed effort to best the Lakers and essentially give the series to Los Angeles headed back to Hollywood.

But if they’re playing with energy, bringing the fire and brimstone from the pine and playing with such fervor and raw emotion that they can’t control the saliva free-falling down out of their mouths and down their chins, I find it hard to believe the Celitcs won’t head back to Los Angeles needing to split the final two games to take hope their 18th trophy as an NBA franchise.

A No-Win, Yes-Dunk Situation

NEW YORK , Jan 18, 2010 – 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks will attempt to become the first three-time winner of the competition when he defends his title on NBA All-Star Saturday Night, Feb. 13, at American Airlines Center (8 p.m. ET on TNT) in Dallas. Robinson will compete against the Charlotte Bobcats’ Gerald Wallace and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Shannon Brown.

via 2010 Sprite Slam Dunk Announced.doc.

Thanks, LeBron. I hate you.

Okay, we’ll go quick-route, then fast-route.

Quickly: Shannon Brown is a movement, who, much like his actual play, will end up disappointing. But hey, at least he wasn’t selected for the “Hold a 20 point lead by playing intelligent defense” contest.

The Dunk-In: What’s the line on DeRozan, you think? (-220)? Sound right? Because there’s no way in Hell Widdle Gordon beats the Northern Auroarer.

Gerald Wallace: Yeah, so, he’s going to murder everyone. This is the “Gerald Wallace is tired of people not knowing who he is” year. Why else would he be in the contest this year? What, he just randomly decided to come out of dunk retirement? No. This is his way of putting his name on the map.

Nate: I hate you, current CBA. Requiring the dunk champ to repeat is a nightmare. No one wants to see him in it. Nate probably doesn’t want to be in it. Certainly we don’t want him in it. “Short guy! Whee!” Honestly, this is a nightmare. We could have had Josh Smith, LeBron James, and we get Nate Robinson? I like Gerald but I’d sub either of those guys for him. Sigh.

But still! There’s some potential here.

The Long And Winding Road: What’s more popular and overblown, the dunk contest or saying the dunk contest sucks?

Is it star power? Because even if it had stars in it, people would compare their dunks to Jordan and Nique. Nothing that can be done will top what already has. Hating on the dunk contest is mad chic. People are passionate about how the Dunk Contest is “over.” Even after Howard’s resurgence, which was way more than the superman dunk (hello, off back-backboard, windmill, wrap-around dunk), there’s a prevailing hipsterness about the whole thing that bugs me. Because they’re all going to watch. It’s exactly like hipsters that show up to a party, put on their own music, then talk about how lame the party is. These people need jello shots.

I recognize the inherent greatness created by a star participating, and recognize how ti can be a defining moment. I desperately wanted LeBron to participate and am a little crushed he didn’t. But all that means is we need to lower our expectations. We need to understand that there may never be a dunk contest as good as VC’s 2000 exhibition, or as prolific as the free throw dunk or as insane as Nique’s work. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun contest. We’re not deciding homecourt in the Finals over it. Just watch the guys dunk.

Not all art belongs in a museum.

Little Man In The Margins

What if, as rumored, the Bulls want Al Harrington? Then the two could do Nate, Harrington and the Quentin Richardson exception for Thomas & Brad Miller. Too one sided for Chicago? Then perhaps the deal could be expanded to something like Thomas, Noah and Miller, for Nate, Harrington, Darko, and Jordan Hill. Although I don’t expect the Bulls to trade Noah so easily, it’s not a ridiculous deal. The Bulls plan on replacing Thomas with Taj Gibson anyway, and Al Harrington would probably eat up some of those minute and more. Between Harrington and Nate, the Bulls wouldn’t lack for scoring. They would be losing a bit at center, but Jordan Hill would give them a young option there.

via KnickerBlogger.Net » Blog Archive » Trading Nate, The Logistics.

Knickerblogger breaks down what it would take to trade Nate, which given how long he sat on the RFA market, he’s unlikely to garner. I don’t have much to add to this, but am I the only one that still really likes Jordan Hill?

Dear Tom Ziller, Please Write About How The Lakers Will Never Lose Again. Thanks, Management.

But the quest for food turned into an exercise in chemistry building, as the players watched football, talked trash, played cards, and rapped about having fun on the basketball court. No coaches were present. The Knicks lost their next two games, but gained confidence after playing well against contenders Denver and Orlando.

Then they won four of their next five games, including Monday’s 93-84 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers that pushed their season-long win streak to three.

“It really started in Denver,’’ said Duhon, who had a game-high 9 assists against Portland. “We sat down as a team, by ourselves, and got a lot of things off our chests. We talked about what we need to do to win, about being more relaxed. It was the first time in my two years here that we did something as a team where all the players were together.’’

via Knicks Thankful For Newfound Winning Ways – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

On December 3rd, Tom Ziller penned another of his brilliant articles complete with trademark graph providing insight to this game we all know and love. His topic? Three point shooting frequency and efficiency. A central tenant? The Knicks suck.

The following day on December 4th, he penned another article outlining the Tyrus Thomas-Al Harrington trade rumor, pointing out alternate ways for the Knicks to rebuild, since this team was so phenomenally terrible.

The next day, on December 5th, he wrote an article discussing Brandon Jennings and Walsh’s throwing of the Isiah-era scouts under the bus, laying the blame at Walsh’s feet for not taking control of the situation.

Since that time, they are 3-0, with wins over Atlanta and Portland.

Why do I bring this up?

Mostly to screw with Tom, since he’s only wrong about three times a year and he’s not even wrong about this, the Knicks are terrible conceptually and usually in practice, I just found this funny.

It’s hard to put a finger on what the Knicks are doing well. I mean, Larry Hughes is at least scoring more points than the number of shots he takes, which is good (at least for him, anyway), and that’s an outlier. They’re trying really hard on both sides of the ball, and that’s an outlier. Nate Robinson’s not playing, and that’s an outlier. David Lee’s really found his rhythm, and that’s nice. Al Harrington’s been a leader, that’s an outlier. And they’re shooting well from the arc (50% last night). You have to figure this will be stopping soon, but for a group of guys who everyone trashes so consistently, it’s nice to see them put things together for a few games. So, thanks, Tom!