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Celtics 105, Pistons 100

Celtics get it righted

Robinson provides spark off the bench

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 3, 2010

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - It was the product of idle time more than anything else.

Doc Rivers had two whole days to let all the thoughts pass through his mind.

He could have replayed the film from the Celtics’ two worst losses of the season - a blowout against the Cavaliers and an embarrassment at the hands of the Nets - until he went blind.

He could have kept himself up all night thinking about what those losses meant.

Instead, he was thinking about how to make Nate Robinson an impact player as quickly as possible.

“It’s what happens when you have too much time off,’’ Rivers said. “My only thought was I have to figure out a way to make Nate comfortable quicker.’’

He came up with an idea, and that idea helped the Celtics put together a 105-100 win over the Pistons last night, the first step toward erasing the memory of two awful losses.

Rivers called Robinson into his office Monday before practice to tell him his plan. He figured the easiest way to make Robinson comfortable was to install a play the guard used to run when he was with the Knicks.

“My thought was, ‘Well, if I put in one of his plays, he’ll be comfortable,’ ’’ Rivers said. “The other four [players] may not be, but he will be.’’

Then, the coach took it a step further. Not only did he want to install a play for Robinson, he wanted Robinson to teach it.

Thinking about some of those he’d be teaching, future Hall of Famers such as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, an All-Star in Rajon Rondo, and veteran Rasheed Wallace, Robinson was caught slightly off guard.

“Aw man, I’ve got to be coach now,’’ Robinson said. “I’m teaching the play to KG, Paul, Ray, ’Sheed. I’m like, ‘Wow.’ ’’

With the Celtics trailing, 75-72, after the third quarter to a Pistons team that was beating them on the boards (35 to 24 at that point), and to the line (where they were 14 of 18), Rivers put Robinson on the floor with Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, and Shelden Williams. The only play they ran was Robinson’s.

Against Detroit’s zone, Robinson drilled a 3-pointer from straightaway. It was the first of three he hit in the quarter, and it sparked a 16-4 run during which the reserves shared the ball, attacked the rim, and most important got stops on a Pistons team that was shooting 48.3 percent to that point.

By the time Rivers began to get his starters back into the game, the Celtics had a 9-point lead.

“We really could have just let them play the whole fourth quarter the way they were going,’’ said Pierce, who had 9 points in 29 minutes after missing three games with a sprained thumb and symptoms of the flu. “They got us the lead and never looked back from there.’’

With the starters out of synch (Kendrick Perkins missed his first game of the season with the flu), Boston’s bench combined for 39 points that helped bury the Pistons.

Robinson was a one-man rainstorm, draining four of his five 3-pointers and finishing with 14 points as the spark off the bench the Celtics were looking for when they traded Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, and Bill Walker to get him (and Marcus Landry) at the deadline.

“He had the ball in his hands and you could see for the first time since he’s been with us, he was comfortable out there,’’ Rivers said.

Rivers’s tactic wasn’t a new one. When the Celtics brought in Garnett, Rivers installed some of the plays Garnett was accustomed to running in Minnesota.

“I’m not going to tell you what specific plays Doc took from Minnesota for me,’’ Garnett said in the voice of a secret agent. “But he definitely made the adjustment.

“It’s all about having players comfortable. Nate, with that play, played a lot more freer tonight. He definitely was a lot more fluid, made a lot of easy shots, a lot of shots he knows he can make. Anything to get him comfortable as quick as possible is good.’’

Robinson’s skill set is what makes him so dangerous, and allowing him to use all of them in these last 24 games is essential as the Celtics try to build momentum entering the playoffs.

“You get him into a pick-and-roll situation, he’s tough to guard because he can knock down the three and get to the hole and he’s capable of [drawing fouls],’’ Pierce said. “That’s what we want from him when we brought him over and we’re going to continue to ride that.’’

Having his biggest game as a Celtic, Robinson said, alleviates some of the pressure and allows him to just play.

“When you’ve got KG and you’ve got Ray Allen and you’ve got Paul Pierce out there - superstars out there - you get caught up in you’ve got to get them the ball,’’ Robinson said. “It just comes natural now.’’

As for the play itself, Rivers critiqued his own teaching job, saying, “Still got a lot of work to do on it.’’

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