To our eyes, Nate Robinson played his best game of the season last night, surpassing even his 41-point effort on New Year’s Day. Nate scored 27 points in 33 minutes against the Pistons, including a gorgeous backdoor alley-oop dunk off a pass by Chris Duhon, but his performance was superb more for the things he didn’t do. He did not commit needless fouls, à la Saturday’s game in Detroit, when he picked up five in a mere 23 minutes. He wasn’t reckless with the ball, like he had been in the process of committing an aneurysm-inducing seven turnovers in nineteen minutes against Charlotte earlier this month. (The turnover continues to be a major bugaboo for Nate; compare his 1.58 assist-to-turnover ratio to league leader Chris Paul’s 4.92.) And, best of all, he didn’t disrupt the Knicks’ offensive flow.
It was the ideal Nate: a surge of energy and scoring off the bench, without the circuit-breaking mistakes. Though he was the game’s leading scorer, he blended into the Knicks’ attack. He scored on hand-offs, swing passes, screens, and backdoors, rather than solely on pull-ups and isolation drives. Six of his eleven baskets came on assists. And he was efficient. After hitting four in a row in the second quarter, Nate might easily have decided to go to the Eddie House method (don’t shoot the ball unless you have it in your hands), but he stayed patient, and, as Craig Robinson once said of Barack Obama, “passed the ball when he should, shot when he should.” In the crucial moments of the fourth quarter, he shared the ball with Danilo Gallinari, who had some big buckets. It led to a very pretty stat line: eleven for eighteen from the field, four assists, one turnover, and a team-leading +14 differential. Or, to be more Clyde about it, Nate was dishin’ and swishin’.
After a game like Monday’s, we can almost imagine Mike D’Antoni turning to Nate Robinson with a confident smile in a future playoff game (watched from courtside by Super Bowl champion Mark Sanchez) and sending him in to give Dwyane Wade a breather. But at the very least, Nate helped the Knicks to a much needed home win over a mediocre team and kept The Sports Section’s outsize playoff hopes alive.
Nate the Greatness: 9
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