Czar’s Playoff Preview

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets - Game FiveThe Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls take the court tonight in Game 6 of their first round series with a swarm of questions buzzing about.

Will Bulls PG Kirk Hinrich miss his second straight game with a bruised left calf? Will Luol Deng and Taj Gibson be healthy after skipping yesterday’s practice due to illness?

Whose plantar faciitis will affect his production more, Joakim Noah’s or Joe Johnson’s? Will PG Deron Williams perform at an All-Star level or revert to his form in Games 2 and 3 wherein he shot a combined 6 for 23?

Will we see the return of Derrick Rose either tonight or in a possible Game 7 back in Brooklyn?

Only eight NBA teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. After winning by 17 in Game 1, Brooklyn then lost a lackluster Game 2 at home, shooting 35% from the field and 19% from the arc. Games 3 and 4 in Chi-Town were extremely close, with the Nets coming out on the losing side in both hard-fought battles.

Game 4 was a true heartbreaker for Brooklyn. They held a 14-point lead with just a few minutes left in regulation and wound up losing 142-134 in triple overtime.

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets - Game FiveBulls backup PG Nate Robinson was the hero for Chicago, scoring 34 points (the most ever for a Bulls reserve in a playoff game) and almost singlehandedly winning the game. 29 of his 34 points were scored in the fourth quarter and subsequent overtimes.

Brooklyn can be buoyed by their performance at home in Game 5 on Monday. They shot 50% from the field and outrebounded Chicago 44-33. C Brook Lopez finished with 28 points and 10 boards, and D-Will added 23 and 10 dimes in the 110-91 victory.

The Bulls didn’t play badly on Monday either. All five starters scored in double figures; their bench contributed 20 points; and they shot 49% as a team. Chicago simply wilted down the stretch, getting outscored by Brooklyn 33-18 in the fourth quarter.

With Hinrich almost certain to miss tonight’s action, Coach Thibodeau may mix up his lineups with Marco Belinelli at the 1-guard, athletic SF Jimmy Butler checking Deron Williams, and the electric Nate Robinson returning to his role as super-sub.

Tune in to YES or TNT at 8PM ET to see if the Nets can get their first W of the year in Chicago and take this series back to Brooklyn for Game 7.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Nate Robinson

Chicago signed one-time Bull Kirk Hinrich to fill the temporary void left at the lead guard spot after franchise player Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

When Hinrich left Saturday’s win over Minnesota with a hip injury, ninth-year sparkplug Nate Robinson finished out the contest for coach Tom Thibodeau at the 1. Robinson played a season-high 31 minutes and scored a season-high 18 points.

Rose is not expected to return until April or May of 2013, and Hinrich is currently listed as day-to-day. With enough floor time, Robinson is capable of making a significant fantasy impact.

The 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft and 3X NBA Slam Dunk Champion has career highs of 45 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. The ultra-athletic Seattle native scores, rebounds, passes, hits threes and gets steals.

So far in six games Robinson is averaging 11.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.5 rpg, 1 spg, and he’s shooting almost 50% from the floor. Robinson has season highs of 18 points, 12 dimes, 5 boards (3X) and 3 steals.

The Bulls have enough talent to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference while they wait for their star’s return. With a tremendous head coach and a talented, stable, veteran core, a player like Robinson can slide into the rotation, whether in the first 5 or as the backup PG, and accumulate healthy, nightly numbers for a fantasy roster.

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Czar’s Season Update: Celtics-Thunder Trade

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Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Nate Robinson

The Boston Celtics lead the Eastern Conference despite a slew of injuries that have threatened to derail them since the start of the season. Six Celts have missed over six-dozen games, with All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo being the latest casualty. It looks like Rondo will be sidelined for at least two weeks with a sprained left ankle, and backup guard Delonte West is out with a broken right wrist. So Nate Robinson has moved into the Celtics’ starting lineup and will get major minutes because they need him out on the floor to facilitate the offense.

A dynamic athlete, Nate Robinson not only led the Huskies to two straight NCAA basketball tournament appearances during his collegiate career, but he also played football at the University of Washington. Among the shortest players in the NBA, the three-time Slam Dunk Contest champ is a high flyer who can ignite his team’s offense off the bench and set the scoreboard on fire.

Boston acquired Robinson in a five-player trade with the Knicks last season. Though Nate logged a lot of time on the bench, he stayed positive and patiently waited for his opportunity to shine, which eventually arrived during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Robinson put up 13 second-quarter points against the Magic while subbing for Rondo, giving Boston a boost that ultimately helped cement their victory and clinch the series. Robinson followed up with 12 points in 17 minutes to help the Celtics win Game 4 of the Finals at home.

Armed with a football player’s mentality, Robinson is confident, tough and fearless. The 5’9″ dynamo brings energy to the court and intensity on defense. Robinson is one of those guys who is capable of putting 30 points on the board on a given night because he’s an explosive scorer who can penetrate the defense and hit 3-point shots.

A supportive teammate, Robinson knows his role with the C’s and enjoys being part of a championship-caliber squad that wins. Usually his job is to spark the offense off the bench and score points, but now he must help run the offense so Allen, Pierce and Garnett can do their jobs. So far Robinson has been effective in his starting role: He delivered 14 points in Boston’s Rondo-less win over Atlanta and followed up with 18 points against the Pacers on Sunday to help stretch Boston’s win streak to 13. Though inconsistent, Robinson should boost your PPG if he earns a spot on your roster while Rondo recovers. Robinson is available in 70% of fantasy leagues and the Celtics play six games over the next two weeks.