Nate Robinson played 41 minutes tonight in the absence of Rajon Rondo, well above his season average of 16.5 minutes per game. He joked about the last time he saw that much court time.
“Probably with the Knicks,” Robinson said of his days as the star on a bad team.
Robinson had an up-and-down game. He scored 14 points but made only 6-of-15 shots from the floor. He had 5 assists and 6 turnovers.
“He was having an off-the-mark night with passes,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
But Robinson’s 41 minutes were a team-high. They were absolutely necessary in the absence of Rondo. It’s a tough situation to put any player in — to replace an All-Star point guard — but for the most part Robinson handled it well.
“Nate has always been good,” said Kevin Garnett. “You know, you put him with responsibility and he finds a way to deal with it.”
At halftime, Robinson had to deal with something he’s not used to dealing with. Rivers laid into Robinson at halftime, pointing out what he did wrong and making suggestions for what to do better.
“He was on my ass today,” said Robinson. “He was yelling a lot. I was just trying to make sure I was in the right spots. He said, ‘I’m not yelling at you, I’m giving you positive criticism.’ I said, ‘It’s all good, coach. I’m not mad or anything. I’m just mad at myself for really messing up…as time goes on I’ll get better with it and more familiar.”
Robinson said after the game that he was OK with his coach’s criticism, but Rivers said it took a few minutes for the tone of the message to sink in.
“Nate tends to — he gets coaching at times, he hangs his head,” said Rivers. “And it was at a point in the second quarter where I couldn’t even give him a play because he thought I was going to tell him, ‘Nate, you suck’ or something. I don’t know what he thought I was going to say… With Rondo, you know, I’m so used to telling him what I need: ‘Rondo, tell Paul this.’ I was doing that with Nate and Nate was like, ‘Enough! No more. I don’t want …’ And he finally got what I was doing. I guess he just has to get used to that.”
For his part, Robinson was cool about the whole thing after the game. He said he was happy to get the time, and that he’d do whatever Rivers asked.
“I’m just trying to pick these guys up, hold it down until when Rondo gets back,” said Robinson. “Coming off the bench I know my role of course. But the first unit makes it so easy. The vets know how to pass the ball, and I just dribble to the corner and they handle everything else. I just try to knock down open shots.”
The Celtics are a better team when Robinson comes off the bench to knock down those shots, but this time running the team can only help Robinson in the long run.
— The Celtics won tonight’s game with essentially nine players.
“We were playing with Semih [Erden], two rooks, and then Von [Wafer] went down at halftime,” said Garnett. “[Paul Pierce] said it before the game: This is going to me more mental than anything … So what’re you going to do? You either quit, you put your clothes on and go home, but that ain’t the way we do things around here. We work. So that, pretty much — gutsy is an understatement.”