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Robinson gets pointed right way

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / December 17, 2010

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A coach who is a former point guard can place some difficult demands on the player manning the position on his team. And the Celtics’ Nate Robinson felt the sharpness of that double-edged sword during a 102-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks last night.

Robinson started in place of the injured Rajon Rondo at the point, and the combination of a difficult matchup against the Hawks’ Mike Bibby and a verbal assault from Doc Rivers took Robinson to the verge of a sensory overload by halftime.

“Doc, he was on my [butt], he was yelling a lot,’’ Robinson said. “That’s what a good coach does, makes sure the point guard knows what he wants to run and get guys in their spots. He did a good job of telling me. I know people on TV heard it a lot, the whole game — I know, my friends already called me, teasing me about it, but it’s all good.’’

Rivers spends much of the game advising and exhorting the point guards to follow his choreographic directions. Rivers and Rondo have developed an understanding that has been mutually beneficial. Rivers and Robinson do not have a similar symbiotic relationship, but they might have taken a big step forward in their understanding during halftime last night.

“I said, ‘Nate, just a notice for you, you’re the starting point guard now and I’m going to give you a lot of instruction, it’s not criticism,’ ’’ Rivers said.

“Nate tends to, he gets coaching at times, he hangs his head and it was at a point in the second quarter I couldn’t even give him a play because he thought I was going to tell him . . . I don’t know what he thought I was going to say.’’

Robinson had committed four of his six turnovers in the opening half and Ray Allen had not been involved in an offense that was out of synch. So, the Celtics made a tactical change, Paul Pierce functioning as a point forward.

The move got Allen into the game and also freed up Robinson.

“Nate’s passes were off the mark early,’’ Rivers said. “Paul basically became the point forward in the second half and it really worked for us. I don’t know if we stumbled onto it or if we kind of were forced to do it. But it was terrific. And Paul enjoyed it, which is even better.’’

Robinson, who finished with 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting and five assists, got into the spirit, as well.

“I was playing a little timid in the first half,’’ Robinson said. “Second half, I said, you know what, just play and do the right thing, and just be me. I was just trying to make sure I was in the right spots.

“[Rivers] was telling me at halftime, he said, ‘When I’m yelling at you, I’m not criticizing you, I’m giving you positive criticism.’ So, I said, ‘It’s all good, Coach. I’m not mad about it. I’m just, you know, mad at myself for really messing up and not being in the right area, the right spots on the court. But, as time goes on, I’ll get better with it.’

“He said a little joke, and I said, oh, cool, it’s not so bad then. I guess he was hiding it . . . Doc’s a great coach, he just makes guys feel comfortable.

“I mean, I watch how Rondo carries himself, how Doc comes at him, and he handles it very well. It makes it easy for me. He just wants you to know what you’re running and be in control of the game.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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